Swift Current's ambulatory service may soon have even more skilled paramedics.
Hutch Ambulance Services is looking to upgrade the care they are able to provide in Swift Current. That comes with some more training and certification on their teams, as well as looking at bringing in a fourth ambulance unit to Swift Current.
They are aiming to do that by becoming an 'Advanced Life Support Service'. Doing so would mean that they could provide more immediate care through an increased ability to administer more medications, and be able to perform more potentially life-saving procedures on-site.
Presenting the plan for this upgrade in service to Swift Current city council was Cameron Hutchinson, EMS Chief of Hutch Ambulance Service.
"The reason I'm here tonight is to try and get [the City's] support for the 'Advanced Life Support' designation for our service," said Hutchinson. "When we took over in 2020, there was a big pressure from the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry that they wanted us to be an 'Advanced Life Support Service'."
In order to have that certification, they would need to hire on or train paramedics who are certified to provide 'Advanced Life Support'. Paramedics who have that qualification take twice as long to train, and are in demand in other fields besides ambulance services.
"We're able to actually have two advanced care paramedics and start offering that service," said Hutchinson. "We've been kind of tinkering on having a third one, but we gave a scholarship to one of our employees two years ago, and she will be done by February or March."
The other side of the plan for an upgrade to services in Swift Current is the procurement of an additional ambulance. This ambulance would allow for greater flexibility in responding to regular calls, as well as for events that require an on-site ambulance.
"We always have to have a unit in Swift Current," Hutchinson shared. " Wo we can't send it to Saskatoon or anywhere else for a transfer. It has to be in the Swift Current area."
In order to get either of these things done, a few factors come into play. Hutch Ambulance would of course need approval from the province before moving forwards with either of these steps, and they also need a signed letter from the City of Swift Current supporting them in becoming an 'Advanced Life Support Service'.
The City, for its part, would like some additional information provided besides what was brought before them at the council meeting. Specific requests were made for the costs of running the program and how the upgrade in service provided would affect the number of lives saved.
It's important to note, that these upgrades would be reflected in the cost of an ambulance call. As the fee stands right now, it's $245 for them to be dispatched and arrive on site. Under the new program, callers would be paying a fee of $325. That $80 increase is no small amount for those on lower incomes and that is something city council was very considerate of when evaluating the presentation.
As for purchasing a new ambulance, the wait times in the post-pandemic era are over 12 months. Hutchinson spoke about how transit van chassis is currently the most realistic option available for purchase.
"That's lucky if we can even get a chassis," he said. " The blocks ones (Ford, Chevrole, or GM truck chassis), they pretty much laugh at us when we go to get one of those. They are just very, very hard to get."
An ambulance, as of summer 2022, can go for around $180,000. That's not including the medication and drugs inside, various electronic equipment, and medical tools and devices that would also need to be purchased to have the vehicle fully operational.
2023 is looking like a very ambitious year for Hutch Ambulance in Swift Current. The City will reconvene at a later date once they receive more information on these plans, and proceed accordingly from there.