Life Saving Equipment for All Local Ambulances
For critical heart attacks, the quickest response is the best. The faster a patient can access the right medical care, the better the projected outcome. Soon, in our region, as part of a ground breaking pilot project between Interior Health and the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), every single ambulance in proximity to a heart cath lab will be equipped with the devices required to perform tests on patients to determine if their symptoms are due to a heart attack. Ambulances will be equipped with portable electrocardiogram (ECG) machines, giving patients immediate access to state-of-the-art care.
Thanks to the kindness of philanthropic individuals, families and organizations from Lake Country, Predator Ridge, Vernon and Armstrong, a total of eight portable ECG machines are being purchased for our region. As a result, the Okanagan Valley will be the first area in British Columbia where an ECG machine will be readily available to measure electrical activity in the heart for patients experiencing chest pain under the care of a paramedic.
“When patients are experiencing a heart attack, restoring blood flow is paramount as heart muscle tissue does not regenerate when it dies. Within the first hour of onset of symptoms, you lose about 50 per cent of the available heart muscle tissue being supplied by the affected artery. Within three hours you’ll lose two thirds of it. It drives home how important it is to have a diagnosis as soon as possible, in order to have a healthy heart after a heart attack,” explained Trevor Campbell, Advanced Care Paramedic Practice Educator, BCEHS.
Currently, when patients present with chest pain, they are brought to VJH where an ECG is performed. If the chest pain is diagnosed as a STEMI – a serious form of heart attack where the coronary artery is blocked and a large part of the heart muscle is unable to receive blood – they are stabilized and transferred to the Cardiac Cath Lab in Kelowna. In a STEMI, the risk of permanent damage is grave. Time is of the essence, and transport of the patient to the most appropriate receiving facility is critical.
With ECG machines in every ambulance, and BCEHS providing training to all primary care paramedic crews located within a certain radius to a cath lab, paramedics will transmit ECG results directly to the hospital where medical teams can conduct preliminary assessments. Paramedics will give advanced notification from the ambulance to the receiving hospitals in order to shorten the time to appropriate treatments. If a STEMI is identified, patients will bypass VJH and be transported directly to the KGH Cardiac Cath Lab, providing expedited treatment and direct access to the appropriate interventions.
“It is very exciting for us – our seven internists, the entire ICU and our Emergency teams – to make this service available to our patients. When I’m on call, I see, on average, one to two STEMI patients per week. This is a fantastic initiative and a great example of innovative collaboration. To quote a slogan from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, This will truly provide the Right Care. Right Now,” stated Dr. Danie Roux, Head – Department of Medicine, VJH.
Additionally, the new machines provide advanced vital sign monitors and defibrillators. Paramedics will be conducting ECG tests in the field and also have the ability to acquire advanced vital signs and perform noninvasive blood pressure monitoring. These tests help paramedics provide the most appropriate care outside the hospital. The test results are immediately transmitted to emergency room physicians who can then establish preliminary diagnoses so that medical teams are more prepared when patients arrive. These machines will benefit every single patient seen by paramedics in our region.
Online training for the paramedics has now been completed and one-on-one training will commence in March.