GBHC and BVPHC to share ambulance staff
Central Health announced this week that, as part of their new operational improvements, Hospitals in Baie Verte and Springdale would be sharing ambulance services from now on.
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The announcement caused a lot of people to turn their heads towards the health authority, wondering what that would mean for patients in both areas, in the cases of emergencies, where Para medicine services are required. However, Central Health says the change has been ongoing now for the past couple of months, even before last Thursday’s announcement, and they’ve found that the transition has been seamless and working perfectly.
Melinda Noel, Director of Health Services at Green Bay Health Centre in Springdale, says they’ve seen great improvements over the past while since the new model has been implemented.
“It’s been a work in progress over the past couple of months,” she said, “but we’ve seen a number of cases where we’ve been able to provide care much easier than we could before.”
Noel says the main changes in the ambulance services provided by both hospitals are internally with staffing. The health authority has changed their staffing model, and is now sharing Primary Care Paramedics (PCPs) between both hospitals.
“The biggest changes will be how we handle staff, and how they’ll be shared between the two hospitals. Previously, there were two ambulances at each hospital, and that won’t change,” she said.
Noel explains that under their old staffing model, there was one ambulance staffed at each hospital at any given time – meaning there were two PCPs on duty, ready to respond to an emergency at each site.
“Two PCPs are required on the ambulance for an emergency,” she explained. “So, for example, if the ambulance in Springdale got called to an emergency, and while they were gone, we got another call, then we would have had to seek out our other employees on their days off to cover off that second emergency.”
Now, she says, they have the option of the third team of PCPs, which will be stationed in either Baie Verte or Springdale at any given time.
“If the third team is in Springdale, and the ambulance in Baie Verte is called on an emergency, then they will immediately go to Baie Verte to cover off that area,” she said, as an example. “We’ll continue to have one ambulance stationed in each area at all times, just as before.” The same will work, vice-versa.
Noel says that there are a number of contingency plans in place that will ensure coverage is always there, for both areas. She says in rare cases where all ambulances are dispatched, the backup ambulance will be stationed at the Baie Verte junction until the other ambulance arrives back to the base.
Central Health has also partnered with Community and Private ambulance services to ensure that their ambulances at the hospitals are always available for emergency responses.
“Community and private-based ambulances will be used mainly in transfers of patients – such as a patient needing to go to Grand Falls-Windsor for a test,” she said.
She also said the hospitals will use discretion on which providers do the transfers based on the level of need for the patient at the time.
All Central Health Ambulances in the area are also now equipped with satellite phones, to aid in the communications while travelling between Springdale and Baie Verte.
As for whether all these changes are saving money, Noel says they’re anticipating big savings, since the PCPs are helping with other things at their sites, in addition to their ambulance duties.
“A PCP that’s also an LPN can help in that area – others are helping in record keeping and so on,” she said. According to Noel, that increases efficiency, and thus saves money.
NAPE President Carol Furlong says they were part of the process for the changes, and were aware they’ve been in place for a while.
“That policy has been in place for quite some time – I can’t tell you exactly how long, but I know it’s been a long time, and we were part of the process when it was brought in.”
Furlong says their concerns have been met so far, in the fact that PCPs are still getting the shifts they need, and the other work they’re doing isn’t what the union took issue with some time ago.
“It’s a unique situation – if you’re going out on an emergency as a paramedic, you don’t know what you’re going to face when you get there,” she said. “So no one wants to come back and be expected to do maintenance on the building, after facing a horrendous scene a few minutes prior.”
She says the safety of the public was also one of their concerns, and they’re confident that those needs are met with these new changes.
“I suppose if they find a time where all the ambulances are called out at once, then someone will have to wait for an ambulance,” she said, “but that’s just where we find ourselves this day and age, and it’s also a very rare occurrence.”
When asked if she feels Central Health is saving any money with the new changes, Furlong wasn’t sure.
“That,” she said, “I really couldn’t tell you.”