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Paramedic 9-1-1: How N.S. is changing the way it dispatches ambulances

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia’s EHS says dispatching of paramedics is changing'
Nova Scotia’s EHS says dispatching of paramedics is changing
WATCH: Nova Scotia’s Emergency Health Services says it has been experiencing a rise in call demand over the past decade. As Megan King reports, the dispatch of paramedics and medical services is changing to meet demand.

Nova Scotia’s Emergency Health Services, which is responsible for ground ambulance, is changing how it dispatches paramedics in light of a rise in demand and a strained health-care system.

Jeff Fraser, the executive director of the EHS branch of the Department of Health and Wellness, says they want “the ability to send the right provider to the right patient at the right time.”

“That’s what we’re really trying to re-engineer here,” he told Global News.

“Our system has experienced, consistently over the last 10 years, about a four per cent increase in demand. All that demand doesn’t mean that everybody is critically ill, but those are demands that we’re dealing with.”

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Earlier this month, the province unveiled a slate of actions it says will improve emergency care, after the stories of two women who died following seven-hour-long waits in emergency rooms shook the province.

The Health Department says it will begin assigning physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide care in emergency departments.

Scott Sturgeon, a paramedic, spoke with Global News this week to say that continued delays in offloading at ERs and a rise in calls have made their job increasingly difficult.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia paramedic speaks out about working conditions'
Nova Scotia paramedic speaks out about working conditions

He says paramedics are often filling in gaps for primary care, and responding to non-emergency calls as well.

“Once I’m there, I can’t leave that person. So, I could hear a cardiac arrest, I could hear a stroke, I could hear a seizure go out very next door, and I can’t leave. So I need to go ahead and finish that call,” he said.

According to Fraser, almost four out of every 10 patients attended to by EHS are not transported to hospital.

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A change to the system now sees consultation between on-scene paramedics and clinical staff at the medical communications centre, which results in health plans for patients.

“Rather than just take those folks from their homes to the hospital, we will increase our scope of service that we can do and make them more comfortable,” said Fraser.

“Then if we have to take them to the hospital, we do that in a way that is co-ordinated, so that it’s best for the patient, best for the system.”

Fraser says he’s confident, but admits “it’ll get a little worse before it gets better.”

“What I’m seeing is that we’re absolutely on the right path here.”

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