A new Emergency Health Services (EHS) initiative at hospital emergency departments will get paramedics and ambulances back on the road faster so they can respond to emergency calls sooner.
Starting Wednesday, June 1, paramedics will take low-risk patients to the emergency department waiting room to be assessed by healthcare staff. Previously, paramedics had to wait with patients until a doctor took over their care. A low-risk patient is anyone who has normal vital signs and can sit, stand or move independently without risk of falling.
“Paramedics are a vital part of our healthcare system. We need to make sure their time is spent responding to emergencies,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness. “This policy balances the safety of patients who can wait to be seen by emergency department staff and getting our paramedics back on the streets sooner.”
Paramedics will continue to wait with high-risk patients, such as patients with suspected stroke, chest pain or other potentially life-threatening injuries, and children under 16, among others.
The direct to triage policy is one of several initiatives designed to reduce pressure on the EHS system, improve ambulance offload times and improve working conditions for paramedics.
Other initiatives include:
— expansion of the Medical Transport Service and Patient Transfer Units, both of which reduce the reliance on ambulances to transport patients who are low-risk and do not need medical oversight during transport
— increasing the EHS budget by almost $12 million for 2022-2023
— continuing to implement recommendations from the Fitch report on ambulance service in the province
— the purchase and installation of power loaders and power stretchers in all ambulances
— the creation of a temporary licence, in partnership with the College of Paramedics of Nova Scotia, so graduating paramedics can start working in their field sooner while waiting to write licensing exams
— new vehicles and staff to double patient transfer capacity and enable paramedics to focus on emergencies
— establishing an Employee Advisory Council
— working collaboratively with the employer and paramedic schools on recruitment and retention.
“Watching calls join the queue while you wait with a low-risk patient in hospital is hard. When our paramedics are able to get back into their communities sooner, that benefits everyone. We are hopeful that this new policy is a positive step toward getting our paramedics back to doing what they do best – responding to emergencies.”
– Kevin MacMullin, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727
“Our hope is this initiative results in paramedic crews being released from hospitals more efficiently to respond to medical emergencies provincewide while ensuring no disruption to quality patient care.”
– Charbel Daniel, Executive Director of Provincial Operations, EHS Operations