The MD of Willow Creek's fire departments are now much better equipped to aid in medical emergencies in case of a delayed EMS resposne.
Town councils within the MD have jointly adopted the "Operating Guideline for Transporting Patients During Prolonged Response Times."
Recent policy changes from the province and AHS have allowed for a more significant medical response from fire services, and thanks to a prior investment from the MD, their firefighters will be especially well equipped, should they be needed.
In 2014, the MD of Willow Creek purchased three ambulances, but according to the MD's Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Services Kelly Starling, they haven't been able to utilize them to their full potential until now.
"It was in conjunction with a pilot project that we did with AHS that would allow us to transport patients if EMS was delayed or unavailable. Unfortunately, at the time of the review of the pilot project, AHS deemed it not necessary. So we hung onto these response units and used them for our own Medical First Responses we currently do in conjunction with AHS."
Medical First Response is nothing new, but only now can those ambulances be used to transport patients.
Typically, when fire departments provide a Medical First Response, they'd be permitted to treat patients on-site but wouldn't be able to transport them.
With recent changes from AHS, they can now put those ambulances to use in case of a delayed EMS response.
"I understand other departments are able to transport in a fire engine. We're in a position where we have these medical response units that are fully equipped ambulances with trained staff. We feel confident we can, in dire straights, be able to get the patient the right level of care," says Starling.
He emphasizes that this won't be an everyday occurrence, and will only be carried out in cases of critical need.
Starling describes it as an extra tool in the toolbox.
"Our crews will respond as they normally do. What's provided to us now is an online medical control number and a protocol that's been put out. Our fire crews will call this online medical control and will have our medical director, our doctor and employment manager who will advise on what's best for the patient."
The ambulances are dispatched from Nanton, Claresholm, and Fort Macleod.