Emerson-Franklin Reeve Dave Carlson is welcoming proposed changes to the province's Medical First Response (MFR) model that would allow municipalities to operate Community-Based First Response programs.

Carlson, who is also a local volunteer fire fighter, says the Municipality's emergency services department has been running a medical first response program for 40 years, but a change by the former PC Government requiring members register with the College of Paramedics of Manitoba and the necessary 312 hour of training, didn't fit with their volunteer-based model. 

"They kind of they kind of had a one-size-fits-all mentality," said Carlson. "They were almost tripling the amount of hours needed for training and the testing, in many cases, went outside the scope of what we can legally do on a scene and with the patient. Between membership fees and having to get your own personal insurance (and) not coming under the insurance of the Municipality, it all became very, very expensive."

The fear, added Carlson, was that this would alienate new members from joining the emergency services teams in Emerson-Franklin or prevent current members from seeking the necessary training, putting the program at risk. Those trained before the changes were made were grandfathered into the program, but Carlson said the fear was that they would retire or move away, leaving the department with less and less members trained in MFR.

"It was distressing for us. I think this new government is walking it back, by the looks of it, and I think that they're going with the more common-sense approach, and common sense says that it's better to have someone there with some training to help than not to."

For Emerson-Franklin, Carlson says the MFR is a necessary and critical service. 

"Typically, we're on scene first. Depending on where the ambulance is in our area, they (paramedics) either come from Altona, Morris, Vita, Saint Pierre, sometimes Steinbach or Winkler. It all depends on the kind of call volume and what's going on at that moment in time when that call comes in," said Carlson, who noted the average ambulance wait time in Emerson-Franklin is about 20 minutes. "It can be up upwards of an hour. In bad weather, can even be longer. So, having our medical responders on scene quickly, or more quickly, able to administer CPR, Defib, first aid, just monitoring vitals and passing that information along to the ambulance is critical. It's bringing comfort to people when they're in need, helping to stabilize them and you know, show them that there's somebody there that's trying to help them. I know we've definitely saved lives and made a real impact on our community." 

A move to Community-Based First Response, as per the Province's proposal, would not require registration with the College of Paramedics of Manitoba, and responders would be trained at the Advanced First Aid Level which requires much less training, 70 hours. 

Carlson says Emerson-Franklin has been lobbying hard for changes and expects the Municipality will be adding its feedback to the consultation period currently underway. Click here to offer your feedback. The consultation period is open until May 25th.