LOWER MAINLAND - The B.C. Ambulance Service will now inform Lower Mainland fire departments of all emergency calls when they're first received, after a man who suffered a heart attack died on his way to hospital.
The provincial ambulance service announced a change of policy Friday that would also make firefighters first responders to all emergency and potentially serious calls. Previously, some calls required an ambulance-only response.
The new policy comes nine days after a 45-year-old worker suffered a heart attack at a West Vancouver construction site and had to wait 10 minutes after the 911 call for an ambulance to arrive, even though a fire hall was only blocks -- and a few minutes -- away.
Albert Auclair died on his way to hospital -- prompting his wife to ask why firefighters weren't alerted until after ambulance crews had arrived at the scene.
B.C. Ambulance Service spokeswoman Karen Johnston said fire services will now be advised of medical emergencies, but it's up to them to decide whether to respond. "We don't in any way compel or require any municipality or fire service to dispatch their own resources."
The West Vancouver incident has raised questions about the 911 system and how firefighters and ambulance crews are dispatched to emergencies.
The new ambulance policy could help ease public concerns since it ensures that, at least in Vancouver and the rest of the Lower Mainland, fire departments will be notified of any 911 calls.
"It's important that the public confidence be maintained in the 911 system," Johnston said. "Patients have a better chance at improved outcomes if the public remains confident in quickly choosing to use 911 in the event of an emergency."
The new procedures will take effect Aug. 20, after required systems upgrades are done.
"This enhanced level of service will help ensure residents in these communities continue to receive excellent pre-hospital emergency care," B.C. Ambulance Service CEO David Morhart said in a news release. "We routinely review all BCAS policies and procedures to ensure we meet, and in many cases beat, best medical practices and emergency response standards."
The latest review, which started in April, prompted this change to the ambulance service's response allocation policy. Under this policy, all medical emergency calls are assessed through a series of questions to the caller. A level of priority is assigned to the incident and the policy then spells out what kind of response is required -- either ambulance alone, or ambulance with first-responder backup.