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Pilot project will see Wellesley firefighters answer more medical calls

Looking to have firefighters handle a larger range of medical calls, Wellesley’s fire chief has secured the blessing of township council to launch a six-month pilot project that will see township fire departments notified more quickly.

The project, approved this week by councillors, involves computer software that provides the department with faster notification of emergency medical calls. It gets underway Nov. 1.

The software monitors data entered in the computer by the ambulance dispatcher: when specific medical parameters are met, the computer system automatically sends call information to the fire dispatch, where the fire dispatcher will then activate the appropriate fire station, explained Andrew Lillico.

“Due to the proposed change in the software, our current tiered response agreement with the Region of Waterloo EMS will not be compatible,” said Lillico adding a new agreement will have to be negotiated.

Last month Lillico along with the fire advisory committee met with Anne Menzie, manager of the Cambridge Ambulance Communications Centre, to discuss and review the new dispatch priority card index (DPCI), the system in which call codes are generated, and determine a call notification structure that would be a benefit to the township residents and where the fire departments’ attendance will provide basic life support or emergency first aid.

Currently the fire department responds to calls where extrication or rescue is required as well as calls involving structural hazards, environmental hazards, and any situation that the fire service would normally attend.

“We have recommended an additional 15 notification calls and believe that fire attendance at the scene will make a difference. Getting fire on the scene prior to six minutes you can significantly increase the chance of survival and can get patients to hospitals faster,” said Lillico. “It takes more than one person to help during these calls, firefighters can administer oxygen, help inserting air ways and can assist with defibrillation and frees up paramedics to administer drugs to patients.”

Under the pilot project the fire department will now be notified with calls of breathing problems, chest pains with shortness of breath, convulsions, near drowning, stroke, childbirth, choking, cardiac arrest, environmental exposure and a trauma either wound or assault.

“We will be more of a pre-hospital care team and a lot of work that would be done in the hospital will be done in the living rooms of patients that call,” he said.

The fire department anticipates a small increase in call volume, but under the pilot project the calls will be monitored and after six months adjustments or other recommendations will be made.

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