About 15 people attended the meeting at the West Queens Recreation Centre, including the last two remaining West Queens First Responders Rob Campbell and Holly Bolivar. Coordinator of EHS Medical First Responders (MFR) services Paul Maynard, western regional manager for EHS Tim Bayers, and EHS operations supervisor Crystal Larkin were also in attendance to give information and answer any questions.
A few people at the meeting expressed interest, on behalf of themselves as well as others who were unable to attend the meeting, on becoming a certified MFR.
Due to past MFR’s becoming overwhelmed with duties in both the medical department and having to fundraise on their own, the group discussed the possibility of forming a fundraising or business committee to help out.
The group planned a second meeting for Monday, June 20 at the West Queens Recreation Centre at 7 p.m. to discuss future possibilities of both the physical and business side of the MFR program.
Role of the first responder
During the meeting, Maynard gave a presentation to those who came out in support of West Queens First Responders. He went over the basics of what the medical first response program is, including the mission and vision of all responders and what they do to support the program.
The mission of the Medical First Response program is to enhance a community’s ability to provide safe, effective, reliable, advanced First Aid. Their vision is a provincial network of volunteer, community supported medical first response teams adequately resourced and competently staffed.
Maynard says he thinks it is important for people to get involved with the program, because MFR’s provide timely and professional life support intervention on medical call.
"It takes time to get an ambulance here," says Maynard. "It's nice to have people come and start the first aid process, start giving you help right away."
When a paramedic arrives on scene Maynard says there are many things they have to do right away, such as start IVs and manage airways. He says having an extra pair of hands around to begin basic life support, so paramedics can focus on more advanced procedures, is extremely helpful.
“We tend to arrive anywhere from eight to 10 minutes before the ambulance, which is a good thing,” says Campbell. “It reduces a lot of the panic and stress of the victim. They’re just so happy to see somebody there to help, it really pulls the situation down and makes it a lot better.”
"Just to do the CPR, just to help get the stretcher out, anything that can help [paramedics] and ultimately the patient," adds Maynard.
Maynard says there are quite a few people involved in the program in order to make it a success, with a total of about 2,200 registered MFRs across the province. Although there are already thousands of certified responders, no one is required to participate in the program.
Responding to calls
Fire departments have all been graded based on their choice of four response levels. At level one they don't go to medical calls. These are often departments where an ambulance is right in the community, so fire departments don't see the need to respond. Level two is responding at the request of paramedics. Level 3 is responding to more serious calls, such as cardiac arrest, and Level 4 is responding to all medical related calls.
When someone calls for an ambulance, the caller will be asked a series of questions in order for paramedics to have a better idea of what they will be dealing with when they arrive, and to determine if a MFR will be sent out.
Maynard says the system does take time, but their goal is to notify MFR’s within one minute and 30 seconds. As soon as a medical call comes in an ambulance is sent out immediately, he adds, so there will already be an emergency vehicle on the way when MFR is called.
Training for the role
A course is required for those interested in becoming a certified MFR, which certifies a person for three years. The program is five days, and needs to be taken with an EHS approved training agency such as Canadian Red Cross or St. John Ambulance.
Bolivar says when she and some others took the five-day training, they were able to break it up over a couple of weeks, rather than take a week off from work.
“Being a medical first responder is a huge commitment, but it's very gratifying. Our community needs it," she says.
In the first year, every person who signs up for the course is entitled to $150-$1,500 reimbursement. Because West Queens is trying to get the MFR program back on its feet, Maynard says participants will be allowed the full $1,500. In following years, each person will be given $150 for training.
“We’re not going to make you jump through a bunch of hoops, we want to get this thing back up and running for the community,” says Maynard.
Within the three-year registration, each MFR is required to take six essential competencies, which are AED, Airway Management, Assessing Vital Signs, CPR, Primary Survey, and Triage.
“Those are free of charge, and are put on by local paramedics,” says Maynard. “In total, in order to reregister, you might tie up three nights over a three year period.”
In addition to the essential competencies, paramedics also put on a variety of over 20 optional courses such as delivering babies and spinal mobilizations.
For more information on topics such as registration, training sessions and calendars, and policies visit www.ehsmfr.ca.