Skip to content

Delay in ambulance attendance will be costly

Dear Editor, I am writing this letter at the request of Manitou Fire/Rescue. It concerns the consequences to our department, and to those people we serve, of the closure of the Neilburg Ambulance Service.

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter at the request of Manitou Fire/Rescue. It concerns the consequences to our department, and to those people we serve, of the closure of the Neilburg Ambulance Service.

When the closure was announced Manitou Fire/Rescue immediately met to discuss how the change in service would affect us. The conversation revolved around the increased ambulance response time we would be facing. Everyone was apprehensive about having to wait, console, treat and prepare patients and accident victims during the 30 to 40 additional minutes waiting for an ambulance.

That increased wait will be for those incidents that happen on main, well-marked roads. Incidents that happen at night, on back roads, in areas not familiar to distant ambulance services, bad winter weather, or unmaintained roads, will face a much longer wait. Even with local knowledge, we have had difficulty finding several accidents with the directions dispatch could provide. Many times accident victims are not sure where they are, and only our familiarity with the area has made response times reasonable for us and the ambulance.

We have directly experienced the difference in response times between local and distant ambulance services when we have attended motor vehicle accidents with multiple victims. Neilburg Ambulance was, of course, always first to arrive and first to leave. This always involved a triage to decide who gets to go first and that in itself has created difficulties when separating family members and, occasionally, parents and children based on medical necessity. But what is always worse for our members is the wait with whoever gets left behind for the second, or third, ambulance from distant services.

The wait for backup ambulance service has been as long as 30 more minutes after Neilburg Ambulance left. Our members' concern is unanimously described as the length of time for both us and the victims, as we hold C-spine control, or try to stop bleeding, or immobilize someone who has broken bones and must wait for the ambulance. Shock, pain, bleeding and emotional distress do not get any better while waiting in a ditch.

Keeping Neilburg Ambulance Service operating will not stop those multi-victim situations from occurring, but the thought that every call would involve that wait time was disturbing to everyone in our service. We are not "professionals" and such events have emotional effects on us, as well as medical consequences for the victims. Closing Neilburg Ambulance will mean every call will take up at least the whole "magic hour" that is critical to EMS success. We believe there will be inevitable health consequences for some people.

Longer response times for pure medical ambulance calls will also have real consequences. Everyone knows that the longer a heart attack victim waits for CPR or defibrillation, or a diabetic goes without stabilization, or a stroke victim waits for the drug protocol that may save his life and function, the less likely it is that it will be successful. There can be no doubt whatsoever that, sooner or later, serious medical consequences will result from longer waits for EMS and transport.

This decision to save a few dollars will eventually cost someone a lot more than just money.

I can see a lawyer somewhere salivating.

Larry Cooper

Manitou Fire/Rescue