Saving lives is all what the emergency medical services (EMS) are all about. There is no denying that the EMS personnel carry out the most important functions in operating the ambulances.
But there is one more important factor in the whole process of emergency medical assistance: the protocols.
Dr. Philip Vogel of Heartland Medical Clinic had been involved in regularly reviewing and updating those protocols for four years as a volunteer.
He says he just assumed the position of “Medical Director of the Stettler Ambulance Service” in 2005 as his predecessor in that capacity, Dr. Heaven, decided to leave.
Dr. Vogel carried on with his volunteering with the EMS until very recently, when his services were no longer required due to the province wide centralization of the ambulance services.
“Before the centralization, every ambulance station had their own protocols in terms of how to deal with the emergencies. Every possible emergency has a protocol to deal with a situation, for instance what to do in a situation of myocardial enfarction,” said Dr. Vogel.
“Those protocols were in place, but it is continuously evolving process and then we would sit together with the ambulance staff and discuss and decide how to change the protocols.”
These discussions focused on introduction of new medication in some situations or changing procedures of intervention.
“We would sit and review the practices of the other regions and talk about them and fit those suggestions into what we were doing as and when necessary.”
He said they did push through one important change in the stroke-bypass protocol.
“At certain times, in terms of a stroke patient getting into a second hospital to get treatment and scans and so forth. We changed the protocol so that in case there is patient with a possible stroke, that patient does not stop in Stettler and goes directly to the Red Deer hospital.”
“So this way you skip one level of intervention whereby you spend some 40 minutes evaluating a patient and lose time which could be of vital importance in saving one’s life.”
Dr. Vogel says this is just one example of the way they had been improving protocols and procedures during his time with the ambulance service.
Now that the ambulance services are to be delivered from a single centre provincially, Dr. Vogel is happy to turn his full focus back to his practice as a family physician.
Coming from South Africa, Dr. Vogel says he and his family, wife and two daughters, aged nine and seven, feel themselves quite at home.
“Although in South Africa we play real sports like rugby” he says with a naughty smile, “there are a lot of similarities between South Africa and Canada.