By Kevin Sabo
Emergencies happen. They are scary. They are traumatic. They are an unfortunate fact of life. Living in rural Alberta, where we are a significant distance from definitive care, we are very fortunate to have access to the emergency services that we do have. We have our hospital in Castor which provides exceptional service for its area residents. The area is also home to a highly trained contingent of first responders who are ready to answer the emergency call at all hours of the day or night. Between the RCMP providing law enforcement services out of the Coronation detachment, the dedicated volunteers of the Castor Volunteer Fire Department, and the highly trained members of East Central Ambulance, the Castor area has never been in better hands.
East Central Ambulance Association has been the ambulance provider for Castor and area since the service was purchased by the ambulance board from Parkview Funeral Chapels, Ambulance Division, on April 15, 1985. At the time, the service consisted of three ambulances, based in Castor, Coronation, and Consort, with the original vehicles being two van-type ambulances, and a modified Cadillac type ambulance. Initially, crews consisted of a driver and an attendant, who typically had standard first aid and CPR. For call outs or transfers that required a higher level of care, a member of hospital nursing staff would accompany the crew.
The 1990s brought change to the ambulance. With Alberta Health putting pressure on the service to increase training levels, the service began putting service members through their emergency medical responder and emergency medical technician training which was conducted through outreach programs put on by NAIT, and SAIT, respectively. By the end of 1994, all three stations served by East Central Ambulance were certified to the Basic Life Support level, a certification which they maintain to this day.
The Basic Life Support certification brought some advanced skills to the service, which included starting IV’s, administering certain basic medicines, and some basic airway devices, as well as some other skills, some of which have slowly been phased out by the province, and some of which have been further developed.
Lorne Dewart, the East Central Ambulance operations manager, was hired by the board in 2007 to assist the board members in managing the service. That same year, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta became the service members bargaining agent, with the first agreement being signed January 9, 2009. In July 2009 an administrative assistant was hired to assist the ops manager.
In May 2012, under the guidance of Lorne Dewart, the service became the first ambulance service in Alberta to become accredited by Accreditation Canada, with the Primer Accreditation rating. On September 28, 2013, East Central Ambulance Service signed a five-year agreement with Alberta Health Services to continue to provide BLS Ambulance care to the area. Following the initial accreditation and the contract with Alberta Health Services, East Central received full Qmentum Accreditation, again, one of the first services to do so. The service needs to go through an Accreditation Process once every three years to maintain the rating.
The service is currently comprised of 14 full time staff members, with four members working at each station, as well as the ops manager and his assistant, plus another 14 or so casual staff. Castor has seen an increase in call volume in recent years, with 2017 year-end showing 186 emergency calls, and 258 inter-facility transfers for a combined total of 444 total responses.
Emergencies can happen anywhere and anytime. Being in Castor may seem like we are in a remote corner of the province, but the dedicated and professional staff of East Central Ambulance stand ready to provide emergency medical care anytime, any weather, and anywhere. Castor is lucky to have this team of medical professionals at their service.