Ambulance New Brunswick remains confident in new dispatch system despite others speaking out
Despite multiple parties raising concerns about the new ambulance dispatch system in New Brunswick, known as Logis or CAD (computer aided dispatch), Ambulance New Brunswick remains confident.
“Listen, we’re talking about a state of the art computer aided dispatch system that is really the best for New Brunswickers because it’s tailored and we can tailor it to our needs,” said the director of the Medical Communications Management Centre, Michel Gravel. “So we’re going to stay the course.”
Although positive it’s the right move for the province, Gravel admits there are some challenges that still need to be worked through.
“We’ve implemented a process for the frontline staff to be able to communicate with us regarding some of those concerns and we’re addressing them as they happen,” he said. “Some of them make it to a list of our deficiencies, for example, that we need to address with the CAD provider and we’re working on those as well.”
Concerns were brought up on Thursday by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick regarding lack of transparency, paramedics not knowing what the others are doing and cellular technology being an unreliable way to dispatch.
“We also have a lot of procedures, policies and procedures that if the cellular does not connect, we’re aware of that,” said Gravel. “We can see that on our system, we get a window that comes up that says ‘The cellular is not connecting’ and we have a policy that says after one minute if they’re not responding, we take the radio and we call out the unit. If they don’t answer on the radio, then it’s a phone call, a landline from their station. Those policies still apply.”
He also says that there are now two phones per ambulance when previously there was only one phone.
Meantime, local fire departments are also impacted. Some departments are no longer being called to all medical calls.
“The difference now is that they’re not necessarily going to be responding to what we had agreed in the past to say we’re going to send you to a high priority call no matter what,” he explained. “Now it’s based on our policy and procedures, which still stay in effect. If we require them and require their assistance, we’re still going to call them.”
However, Gravel says the mandate for fire dispatch belongs to Public Safety.
Riverview Mayor Andrew LeBlanc, whose fire department has seen a drop of about one medical call per day, says it’s a big concern.
“We’ll be in touch certainly with our colleagues across the province who this may effect as well to advocate together and just get all the players on the same page, whether it's provincial, the union, the municipalities or the folks who are involved in the decision making,” said LeBlanc. “I think it’s just about communication and understanding the impact of a decision like this.”
“Maybe it’s a situation where they weren’t aware of the impact it was going to have and so we have the information now, we’re going to let them know that this could be potentially life threatening to residents," Leblanc added. "Our fire crews are quick to respond in these situations and we’re very proud of the services they provide to our residents and so that’s what we want to protect.”
Gravel says there were 12 fire stations that were being provided this extra service.
The New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs has also sent out a survey to provincial fire chiefs to try and determine how wide-spread the issue is. Right now, the association believes it is contained in the southeast region.
“Fire departments, especially in your bigger centres, play a major role in getting first responders to scene in a timely basis, so it is a big concern and we obviously want to make sure that this problem gets solved as quickly as possible,” said New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs president, Scott Poupart.
“In this case, one of the first things we did was reply to everybody in the southeast area that was involved in the initial email to basically say, ‘We’re really urging everyone to get together and put some urgency on this and come up with a solution.’ And we are here to help, just we can’t mandate the solution, but we can obviously support or lobby to make sure that something gets done and as quickly as possible.”
Results from the survey are expected to be back by Feb. 9.
As it stands right now, Gravel says he’s also open to finding a solution that works for everyone.
“Am I open to anything that may come up? Absolutely. Is there a need to have our partners help us? Absolutely. Can we work together to achieve something? Sure. We’re open to it, so I’m willing to sit at the table and come up with solutions on a provincial level, it’s just going to take some time,” he said.
Despite the concerns that have been brought up, Gravel says there have also been positive comments from paramedics about the new system.
“A lot of them talk about the dispatch via radio, but a lot of them are saying it’s calm now,” he said. “It’s not as stressful hearing all these calls on the radio over and over and over again.”
“I think that once people truly understand the functionality of it and the capability of it, I think in the end it will come to fruition.”
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