Glen Abernethy – Med-Response

October 17, 2014
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide this House with an update on the  Med-Response system.

Med-Response is the first program of its kind in Canada – or anywhere else, as far as we know.  Other jurisdictions have call centres to coordinate air ambulance triage and dispatch, or call centres to provide clinical consultation, but Med-Response is breaking new ground by combining these functions into one operation.

Mr. Speaker, Med-Response has the potential to transform how we provide care to patients who are injured or critically ill.  Today, we have a patchwork of protocols and processes that govern how we deal with urgent situations in communities outside Yellowknife.  When a Community Health Nurse wants to arrange an air ambulance, he or she may have to make five or six phone calls.  They have to contact a regional nurse in charge, a medical director, the medical travel office, and possibly other clinical experts.  They do all this while trying to care for a patient who may well need urgent attention. They can be on hold for minutes or even an hour waiting to speak to a physician.

Med-Response will change all that.  There will be one dedicated 1-800 number for all health care workers to call when they need an air ambulance, or when they need advice or consultation that is beyond the capacity of local expertise.  When a call is received, an Emergency Medical Coordinator will immediately assess the urgency of the patient’s condition, and then take the appropriate action.  That might include getting a dispatcher to start arranging a medevac, or patching in an ER physician or specialist to provide advice and support.  Both these things can happen at once.  The phone system provides for up to nine callers to be involved, so that everyone with a role to play understands what is happening in real time.

Another benefit of Med-Response is that it provides an immediate support for new staff, casual staff and locum staff that may be dealing with an emergency situation but not be familiar with our system.  In some cases, having immediate access to specialized clinical support may help to avoid having to medevac a patient.

Because all calls will be recorded, Med-Response will introduce a new level of quality assurance into our system.  The data tracking capacity will allow us to monitor air ambulance usage, and regional patterns, providing the basis for future program improvement.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard concerns about the delayed implementation of this innovative system.  But it’s more important to do it right than to do it right now.  The team at Stanton Territorial Hospital is in place and has been working through looking at programs in other jurisdictions, customizing the phone system and dispatch software, training staff, and developing operating procedures.  We are now getting into the final stages of implementation, which involve reaching out to practitioners in every region to ensure that systems are thorough and accurate, and that nothing has been forgotten in the design.

In the very near future the team will kick off two weeks of intensive scenario testing as the final step before the system goes live early in the new calendar  year.

Mr. Speaker, later today I will recognize in the gallery the dedicated team of professionals who are working to make Med-Response realize its potential.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.