Opioid overdoses are a growing concern and the County of Simcoe paramedic service wants to start teaching firefighters how to respond to them.

Andrew Robert, the director and chief of the County of Simcoe paramedic services said that the goal is to have a one consistent, overarching approach on how to do patient care. 

In a report at the October 24 committee-of-the-whole meeting, Robert outlined a proposed quality-of-care program that would see paramedics and allied emergency services such as police and fire adopt a standard procedure for dealing with opioid overdoses.

Robert said:

“Right now there are some variations of different medical protocols in the field with different servicesThat can set up confusion or a complication at the scene about who is doing is what.”

In Ontario, paramedic services must be associated with what is called a base hospital program, which provides physicians whose license paramedics can operate under.

In Simcoe County, Dr. Michael Feldman, medical director for the County of Simcoe paramedic services, is the physician whom the paramedics operate under.

As part of the proposed quality of care program, Feldman would extend his medical delegation to allied emergency services as well as the paramedics to allow them to administer medicine.

About the proposed program Feldman said:

“I think it’s a pretty ambitious initiative to increase the level of practice and training of firefighters to bring them into a system of care with the paramedic service in Simcoe County.

Feldman spent 12 years working as the medical director for the Toronto Fire Service, where a similar program is employed.

He says he helped train firefighters for the emergencies where patients can’t wait for the paramedics to arrive, such as an anaphylaxis, or a patient in need of CPR.

He added:

“With the increase in opioid activity in many, many communities in Ontario, we need them to be very comfortable with managing an airway.

Breathing stops during an opioid overdose, and maintaining an airway is the first step before administering Naloxone, which is used to counteract the effects of opioids.

If the quality-of-care program is approved, Feldman would oversee the development of the program’s curriculum, and paramedics would teach firefighters the program materials. He added the program will be catered to the individual needs of each fire department.

In Fireman’s words:

“Having the paramedics work as the instructors really establishes professional relationshipsAnd then when the paramedics show up (at a call), they have a lot of confidence in the firefighters.”

Bringing firefighters under the medical delegation of Dr. Feldman would also for greater follow-through on medical outcomes.

He said:

“We can follow through from the fire call report to the ambulance call report to hospital outcomes through one base hospital programSo there is a continuity of care that’s established by the doctor who is in charge of the program.”

The program is subject to approval by county council, which has its next meeting Nov. 14.

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