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Ambulance service in rural Newfoundland?

Dear editor, Already April month has crept by us. Not the end of flu season yet though. Whether it be the flu or a real medical emergency, during these influential and critical circumstances, we all have something in common – to get to the hospital fast and safe.

For the most part, depending on the seriousness of the situation, we all think of the ambulance service right. Wrong, think again.

Most areas in rural Newfoundland operate ambulance services with emergency medical responders (EMR) being the primary attendants rather than paramedics. A cost efficient thing I guess. Anyway, for those who don’t really know the difference or are ignorant in this occupational field, let me give you some insight or let me call it a crash course:

EMR — A two-week training course (10 days if you exclude weekends), and approximately one week on job training.

Paramedic — Nine months of continuous training at a college, and approximately three months on job training.

Do you know where this is going? I’m sure as Newfoundlanders we don’t mind paying for a service that we depend on, but are we getting the service we deserve? Case in point: if you have a student that is going to school and suddenly develops an anaphylactic shock due to peanuts, for example. The first thing you do is call the ambulance service. The ambulance arrives and two EMRs are on scene. They can’t administer the Epi-Pen that is in the boy’s jacket because it is beyond their scope of practice. They transport the boy and call for a paramedic (PCP) intercept.

Already the boy’s life is in jeopardy because of the time consumed. Also, the parents of the young boy are faced with two ambulance bills to pay. Make sense? No. Not in my opinion and the majority of the island.

Take Dr. Phil for instance, who has more degrees than a thermometer, can’t administer an Epi-Pen because it is beyond his scope of practice too. Not unless he is a paramedic or licensed practitioner at the time of incident.

There are EMRs working in the medical field who are known diabetics who stab themselves daily with an insulin shot, who can’t penetrate the skin of a diabetic patient. They can, however, help assist a patient but what good is that if he/she is in a diabetic coma?

Every ambulance should be equipped with a paramedic (see that even sounds good). On a more serious note, if you find yourself or a friend in need of medical attention (God forbid), who would you rather have attending? An EMR or paramedic? If you don’t know the answer, ask yourself this: Would I have a race car driver operate a school bus?

All-in-all, the one question remains: Will you be in safe hands when an ambulance pulls up in front of your doorstep? Keep safe and healthy my friends.


Kevin Collins


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