Paramedics re-shaping emergency care in British Columbia’s oil and gas sector

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As British Columbia’s LNG sector ramps up, workers are travelling further afield and farther away from community-based ambulance stations. As the number of remote workers increases, so do the risks of sudden medical conditions and trauma emergencies requiring rapid paramedic care and intervention.

What was once the domain of ambulances located in major centres such as Vancouver, Kamloops, and Kelowna, paramedics in industry are rapidly transforming the way care is delivered in the oil and gas sector. British Columbia-based LIFESUPPORT Emergency Medical Services is an industry leader in deploying paramedics around the world — often in support of complex medical evacuation missions for ill and injured workers, executives, and tourists.

The benefits of transitioning British Columbia towards a paramedic-focused level of care in the resource sector are obvious, says Graham Williamson, CEO of LIFESUPPORT Emergency Medical Services, himself a licensed paramedic.

“We are able to bring the latest emergency medical treatment protocols and procedures directly to the worksite,” he says, adding that paramedics operating under advanced standing written orders issued by their medical director can act to treat a variety of conditions. “Folks think of paramedics as responding only to major traumatic emergencies, however, many calls that paramedics in the resource sector respond to are not only related to trauma — paramedics have the drugs and equipment necessary to quickly react to a variety of medical emergencies, including chest pain and heart attacks, diabetic emergencies and allergic reactions.”

A significant percentage of the workforce in remote camp environments live and work with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, and paramedics are trained to treat these conditions if an emergency arises. By transitioning from a first-aid model of care, where the skills of an OFA 3 attendant are limited, and focused primarily on traumatic injuries, resource companies in British Columbia’s oil and gas sector are able to ensure their remote workforces are covered by skilled, licensed professionals who are located directly on site, rather than waiting for a traditional ambulance to respond from the nearest community — often several hours away.

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“The benefits are obvious with minimal cost implications,” says Williamson.

LIFESUPPORT’s paramedics treat and transport over 2,000 patients per year, both within British Columbia and around the globe, including missions to hostile areas, such as Afghanistan. Agreements with WorkSafe BC allow paramedics to fill dual roles — both as the on-site first-aid attendant, as required by legislation, and as an emergency medical professional, who is licensed by the Ministry of Health.

LIFESUPPORT Emergency Medical Services is leading the way in integrating paramedic care into B.C.’s oil and gas sector.

“Paramedics are healthcare professionals — not only do they fill the role of first-aid attendant and emergency responder, but they offer value-added services, such as being able to tend to lumps, bumps and minor injuries.” Value is added when paramedics are able to administer potent pain medications to fracture and burn patients, as well as drugs to control nausea. “Not only is life-saving care provided by the paramedic on scene, but they can provide symptom relief and comfort to their patient while transporting them to definitive care.”

Paramedics work directly under written authorization from their medical director – a licensed physician hired by the company to provide clinical oversight, using written treatment guidelines. The physician medical director is also available by telephone to supply advice in certain complex circumstances.

In addition to hiring licensed paramedics to work on its fleet of industrial ambulances and mobile treatment centres, LIFESUPPORT EMS has recently completed the full integration of its dedicated fixed-wing air ambulance resources with its mobile EMS program. Paramedics in the field — with a simple text message to LIFESUPPORT’s dispatch centre, can activate a Vancouver-based fixed-wing air ambulance and critical care transport teams for major trauma conditions, such as head injuries and burns. This valuable tool ensures that patients in the field make it to trauma centres as quickly as possible, thus increasing the likelihood of survival.

For more information on LIFESUPPORT’s paramedic programs, visit www.LNG-EMS.com, or call 250-947-9641.

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