Trauma response quickens

Now, those in need of advanced trauma care can be flown out more quickly thanks to a pilot project just introduced in Terrace.

  • Apr. 10, 2012 9:00 a.m.

PEOPLE in need of advanced trauma care will be flown out faster thanks to a pilot project just introduced here.

Offered by the Northern Health Authority in conjunction with the B.C. Ambulance Service, paramedics can now decide if a patient needs to be airlifted out for more specialized care before arriving at the hospital.

The idea is to save time that’s essential in dealing with critical cases.

“Before March 1, physicians in Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital were the only people who could activate the critical care transport paramedic team and aircraft to rush a critically ill or injured patient to Prince George or Vancouver,” said chief operating officer of BC Ambulance services, Les Fisher.

“This not only used valuable time, but in some cases, the airplane might already be transporting another patient with less serious injuries.”

Alerting the critical care transport team means a fixed wing plane is kept on standby and its crew is alerted.

“What it does for the patient is it puts that plane on standby mode so it can’t do a routine transfer to the hospital,” said Norene Parke, the BC Ambulance Service’s Terrace unit chief.

If there were two or three people hurt, paramedics could potentially put two or three planes on standby, she added.

“It’s all about patient care and at the end of the day we’re all one big team whether it’s from the paramedic in the pre-hospital setting to the doctors and nurses in emergency and the trauma hospital,” Parke said.

Patients would be sent to Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George or BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver depending on the nature of their injuries.

Once paramedics get the patient to the hospital, the physician attending the patient then has 30 minutes to decide whether the aircraft will be sent here to pick up the patient.

“Our whole thought process is from the time of insult (injury) until the patient gets to definitive care that we want to lessen that time frame,” said Parke.

“Patient outcomes are directly attributed to that length of time.”

“When you look at trauma calls, the survivability in the north is the lowest in the province,” Parke said, adding this is due to it taking longer to get patients to the care they need because of the distances involved.

Terrace-based physician Dr. Geoff Appleton, the Northern Health Authority’s northwestern health director also pointed to the idea of speeding up the ordering of a medevac flight.

“It’s been recognized that a lot of the delay comes in waiting until a decision is made, and then you’ve got to kind of look around, find a place, find a crew, get the plane in the air,” said Appleton.

“It will save a lot of time and in critical situations, time is of the essence.”

Trauma calls include paramedics being called for victims of a car crash, a fall, sports-related accident, mud slides, avalanches and with industry here, it can also refer to accidents with logging, mining and power projects.

Health officials have been concentrating on the probability of an increase in medical services needed because of the rise in major industrial projects in the region.

The early notice program was first introduced on northern Vancouver Island two years ago and has resulted in  significantly reducing the time there  it takes to get patients to specialized medical services.

Parke who came to Terrace from Vancouver Island in late 2010 was familiar with the program there.

Terrace is just the second location in BC, after northern Vancouver Island, to have the program in place.