After nearly two years of meetings and negotiating with a group of fire fighters and first responder agencies from across the province, the Department of Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care have proposed changes to the Medical First Response model in Manitoba, which is great news for Niverville Fire Chief Keith Bueckert.

“They did a wonderful job and hopefully, it gained some traction and it's an option that communities and RM's can use to further help their citizens if they so wish."

Bueckert adds, "What the province has done, which I think a really great decision on their behalf, is we're going to have a blended system."

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Back in June 2022, the Manitoba College of Paramedics changed the requirements of the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) program, requiring more hours in training at a higher cost to the individual. Since then, Bueckert notes they’ve been working together and lobbying the government. He explains the proposal.

“Well, this proposal allows communities to enter into basically a pre-hospital care system, very similar to what Niverville provides now, but you will not have to be licensed and (you will not have to) deal with the College of Paramedics and their fees and the new requirements for the 350 hours for an EMR program.” 

“Rather, we are proposing creating a new community based Advanced First Aid Program. One that will require somewhere between 70 to 90 hours, and it will allow communities to respond in tandem with an ambulance in the event of a medical or trauma emergency in their community.”

Bueckert notes they already offer this to Niverville residents. “What we have in Niverville is a licensed service. We get dispatched through MTCC (Medical Transportation Coordination Centre or 9/11), which is in Brandon, where there are medical dispatchers for the province, and that won't change with this community based Advanced First Aid Program.” 

“The main difference between a licensed service and this community-based service is, we will be allowed to independently give medications that we have within our scope of practices, license providers and in the community-based one.” 

Bueckert gives an example. “If we're going to, let's say, a shortness of breath situation. A licensed provider can give them Ventolin without online control or direction, whereas when we show up as a community-based First Aid Responder to a shortness of breath and we confirm this person is short of breath, we just need to confirm with the dispatchers at MTCC that this is what we have, and then they will give us, OK, let's give Ventolin then.”

He adds, when Advanced First Aid responder arrives at a location where 9-11 has been dispatched to, they will continue the conversation with the dispatcher who, most likely has already been communicating with the patient or family member who initially made the call. “And then we can give whatever medication is required.”

When referring to a “blended system”, Bueckert says, “We can run with EMR’s and we can have Advanced First Aid Responders on our team. Right now, when we get a call in Niverville we can't respond if we don't have a licensed person with us. However, down the road, if this all comes into fruition, if we don't have a licensed person in town, due to job or work or whatever, but we have a bunch of our Advanced First Aiders show up to the call, we can still attend the call and help the individual in their situation. It's really slick.” 

Bueckert adds, they will keep their licensed EMR’s on their team and have the Advanced Fire Aid responders work alongside each other. "This way the new responders will get some mentorship and training under the guidance of our licensed people, and then on the occasions that we don't have licensed people attending the call then these Advanced First Aid members, who generally come to our calls anyway, well, now they can be on the call, handle it and transfer the patient care over to the paramedics when they arrive on scene.” 

Bueckert appreciates the less time required to train someone to receive their Advanced First Aid certificate.  

"Our goal in the next year or so is to get our entire group to that Advanced First Aid level and then we have everybody sort of up to that basic level of care and then, anyone that wants to continue on to go for their EMR or their Primary Care Paramedic, well this is a good steppingstone to get your feet wet.”

When it comes to the Advanced First Aid training courses, Bueckert says Niverville already has some people that have been taught at the instructor level and will be teaching their team in-house.

Looking ahead, Bueckert says if this proposal is accepted, he sees a lot of potential for learning new first aid skills and specialized skills across the province.

“So, there are a lot of positives that have come out of something that initially we were quite concerned about, that the EMR program was going to fold. But we feel that this is something that we can continue to maintain, and you know if we get more community fire services that come on board, we’ll have more of a voice in Manitoba.”

Bueckert thanks the province. "Shared Health and Manitoba Health and our medical directors have done a wonderful job of listening to us. So, it's worked out rather well.” 

What do these proposed changes mean for Niverville residents? Bueckert says, “I don't think you're going to see a huge change with our newly trained members coming in. Expect you may see us using our radios a little bit more in your house, because the Advanced First Aid Responders will need to get more direction or approval to do something to help you. That's probably one of the biggest things you're going to see change when we're on scene, but I think that the overall the delivery model for any true life-threatening conditions, we should be able to handle.”

Bueckert says once the proposal has been approved, they will still need to work out the timeline for training and which requirements will be necessary to qualify for an Advanced First Aid certificate.

The proposed amendments to the Regulated Health Professions General Regulation, and the Land Emergency Medical Response System Regulation are now open for public feedback on the Engage Manitoba platform. The public consultation is open for 45 days, closing on May 25, 2024.