Tuesday September 02, 2014

New system for air ambulance gets injured to hospital faster

B.C. Ambulance Service has adopted a new way to call out its air ambulance based in Kamloops, a system designed to get trauma victims to hospital faster.

Called autolaunch, the protocol to dispatch the air ambulance at the same time as a ground car is patterned after a system developed at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. It will allow the air ambulance to land directly at accident scenes.

Randy L’Heureux, director of critical care operations for B.C. Ambulance Service, said Friday the system has been implemented in other parts of the province.

“We saw it at a conference in 2002 and adopted the name. It’s an automatic launch, based on a 911 call.”

The B.C. Liberal government brought in a dedicated air ambulance based in Kamloops in August last year. Under the old dispatch, trauma patients outside the city were transported first by ground crews to the nearest health care centre. The air ambulance transported them from there to Royal Inland Hospital based on instructions from the attending doctor.

Under autolaunch, the helicopter will be dispatched at the same time as the ground crews, based on severity of the 911 call. It will land at or near the site of the injured patient and fly directly to RIH. The call must be at least 20 minutes outside the city.

L’Heureux said the ambulance service is conducting its own research based on introduction in this province during a 2004 trial.

“We’ve shown patients are in the hospital for less time,” he said. “We’re seeing a significant difference in getting patients to trauma centres.”

The new system was put in place Friday. The air ambulance is staffed with two critical care paramedics and two pilots. It is dispatched in the case of serious car accidents, stabbings, shootings or to help burn victims.

L’Heureux said autolaunch is not expected to significantly increase the ambulance service’s budget. The contracted helicopter won’t necessarily be in the air more often but will respond differently.

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