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Firefighters, paramedics working to resolve 911 dispatch dispute: Port Coquitlam fire chief

Last Updated Apr 12, 2019 at 4:02 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Firefighters and paramedics at odds over recent changes to the 911 dispatch system are trying to work together to make sure people in the Lower Mainland aren’t waiting too long for an ambulance.

Port Coquitlam Fire Chief Nick Delmonico says changes made last year meant firefighters are no longer automatically sent in to support paramedics when responding to 911 calls, which he said could put patient safety at risk.

But following a “productive” discussion with the CEO of the BC Emergency Health Services, Delmonico says he’s hopeful some of his concerns can be resolved.

“We’re moving in a direction of some resolve, at least to this problem, and hopefully the bigger problem going forward by changing methodology we’re currently using to make everybody a little more comfortable with it,” he adds. “The fact that the fire (departments) aren’t being sent to high priority orange level calls when they need to be. It’s an issue addressed by every city.”

RELATED: B.C. fire chief says 911 dispatch system change in B.C. risks patient safety

He adds a directive he recently sent city staff asking them to request fire when calling 911 for an ambulance has been misunderstood because firefighters are only dispatched if paramedics can’t attend a call within 10 minutes.

Delmonico says in many situations, both are needed.

“I was trying to find a methodology to ensure our staff were being called as well and that’s what I did with the memo that I put out and there was a bunch of negative comments put on media and different sources saying that it was putting patients at risk and the ambulance needed to go and that was never the intent.”

He says more meetings are planned to address concerns being raised by front-line workers across the province.

Dispatch systems vary widely across the country and within provinces, with firefighters in some departments trained as paramedics who respond to more serious medical issues.

-With files from the Canadian Press