Firefighters can't replace paramedics

Letter to the editor - Langley Times


July 17, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Firefighters can't replace paramedics


Editor: I’m concerned with the fact that any municipality in B.C. would want to increase their firefighter first response capabilities within their boundaries in an urban setting.   This is not being financially responsible to the community. In reality, the municipalities should be rallying to get more paramedics in ambulances on the street.

A large study was recently completed on firefighter response to medical calls in Ontario.  It showed that the firefighter first responders were really only needed on two to three per cent of the calls.  The Ontario study results are similar to the findings of a Berringer study ( completed in Vancouver in 1999, if you exclude putting an oxygen mask on someone.

Let’s face it.  Firefighters are not paramedics.  They are first responders with a targeted first aid course that’s only 42 hours long, and have a very limited skill set ( Primary care paramedics within the ambulance service have a minimum of 1,900 hours of training and can request Advance Life Support paramedics, Critical Care paramedics and Flight paramedics to assist them. This basically brings the emergency room to your home.

Mayor Peter Fassbender is quoted in The Times (July 12) as saying, “the fact is that this intermediate patient care can greatly enhance patient outcomes and significantly reduce . . . costs to the overall health care system.”

With no disrespect to firefighters, it’s the treatment and transport to the appropriate hospital by paramedics that affects patient outcome. Firefighters have unfortunately become pawns in the first responder game between the B.C government and the municipalities.

We all should be paying taxes only once for a service, not twice.