Beiseker’s volunteer-run fire station has announced it is now authorized to provide emergency medical services (EMS) up to the level of Primary Care Paramedic, following a push for funding and Alberta Health Services certification.
According to Beiseker Fire Department Chief Nikki King, increasing the department’s scope of practice will help fire department staff better serve the residents of Beiseker and the surrounding area, to the utmost of their skills and abilities.
King, who is also deputy mayor of the Village of Beiseker, and who has served as fire chief for the last year, said prior to becoming certified, staff were only able to administer basic first aid when faced with a life-threatening situation.
“Somebody could be having a heart attack and there’d be nothing that we could do,” she said. “We basically have to wait for their heart to stop beating – now, we can actually start doing some proactive, life-saving measures immediately.
“We can right away start administering drugs and lifesaving measures.”
King said the biggest challenge to the department prior to receiving certification was contending with ambulance wait times. Regardless of the challenges AHS is currently facing with ambulance response times across the province, King said Beiseker’s isolated location creates added stress.
“We can wait sometimes up to 30 minutes before we can get an ambulance to arrive,” she said. “[Now], with the distance we are from a major centre, should we require an ambulance, at least we can start providing life-saving measures immediately as opposed to having to wait.”
She added the certification doesn’t change the fact that staff will still have to wait for an AHS ambulance to arrive, but at least they can provide potentially life-saving care to patients in the meantime.
Previously, the department had been actively recruiting volunteers who are certified primary care paramedics.
“We have 14 on staff right now on our volunteer department – that's out of 84 members,” she said, adding Beiseker's fire department continues to recruit more certified volunteers.
Primary care paramedic and deputy fire chief, Amanda Davies, spearheaded the initiative to obtain certification for the fire station, according to King, who added a key part of getting certified was obtaining the necessary funding to purchase life pack equipment and drugs.
“That was achieved through donations from the Beiseker Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Beiseker Pharmacy,” she said. “We received a donation, which was enough that we could buy a couple of used life pack units.
“And then, [Davies] worked with AHS in order to increase our scope of practice to primary care paramedic.”