Rural areas let down by lack of HEMS access

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Roger Harris (BC Forest Safety)

A report from the British Columbia (BC) Forest Safety Ombudsman, which reviews the BC Forest Safety Council in Canada, has stated that injured forestry workers in rural or remote communities must wait twice as long for access to air ambulance services. The report, titled Will It Be There – A Report on Helicopter Emergency Medical Services in BC, states that the gap between rural and urban access to emergency medical transport threatens the lives of workers and residents.

“Rural communities are impacted twice compared to urban centres – first, in reduced access to medical care and again in the reduced access to emergency medical transportation,” said BC Forest Safety Ombusman Roger Harris. “For remote communities, as the distance to the nearest medical centre increases, the access to HEMS should be enhanced, not reduced.”

According to the report, the BC area system falls short when compared to similar systems in surrounding areas. It recommends that the provincial government pass legislation to guarantee all residents access to a level three trauma centre, like other, geographically similar states, have done.

“There are no technical or infrastructure barriers to the delivery of air ambulance within that critical first hour to any resident of BC, regardless of where they live. The decision by government not to provide that access is a choice,” continued Harris.

Other recommendations the report makes includes reviewing the Emergency Health Services Act to allow for flexibility when it comes to expanding the scope of practice and role of First Responders in the transportation of accident victims and expanding the use of hoist rescues to reduce extraction and transfer times.

“These recommendations support faster care for workers and all residents regardless of where you live in the province. Faster care results in better medical outcomes for the patient – which in turn, results in lower cost to the healthcare system,” concluded Harris.

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