For the first time, an emergency medical training course, recently approved by Northern College, will be offered north of Sudbury to ambulance attendants to improve emergency services in the north and to bring these in line with those in southern Ontario. Because provincial legislation requires that all ambulance employees hired after August 1977 must study an Emergency Medical Care Attendant (EMCA) course at a community college to make them comparable to a paramedic, Northern College has agreed to sponsor such a course beginning in early September. Three locations of the college will offer the 350-hour course: Kirkland Lake, Timmins, and Hearst. So as not to disrupt families and work schedules of the attendant-students, instructors will travel to the medical centre and Notre Dame Hospital will arrange the hours.
“The significance of the course is that the nearest place it’s been offered up to now is Sudbury,” said Mary Kellie, in-service education coordinator at the hospital.
Improving emergency services in the north would be the aim of the course, she said: ”Traditionally, we’ re underserviced in the north, and with this we can give better emergency roadside care. This will bring us up to par with southern Ontario where ambulance attendants are taking these courses parttime already.
“It’s a really innovative method. The community will still have fulltime coverage by experienced ambulance personnel to answer all calls.” Attendants from Hearst, Kapuskasing, Hornepayne, and Smooth Rock Falls, will take the course at Notre Dame Hospital. Classrooms may shift regularly between Hearst and Kapuskasing to relieve the burden of traveling.
Attendants taking the course are making a big commitment, Miss Kellie said, since they must pay their own tuition and since at least two thirds of them will study on their own time. “I think the ambulance attendants should be commended,” she stated, “for their desire to improve themselves which in the process improves northern ambulance services. They’re doing it on their own time.” At present, there are 12 full- and-part-time attendants at Notre Dame Hospital. Registered nurses, nursing assistants, and orderlies are also eligible to take the course.
If it’s successful, it will be run a second year and will be open to the mills, the Ontario Provincial Police, or the fire department,” she explained. “It’s only in the formative stage. We’ve been thinking of opening it to these people.” Under the Ontario Ambulance Act, all ambulance attendants must be registered. If hired after August 1977, they must have completed an emergency care course at a community college to be employed. Attendants hired before this are encouraged to take the course. Ministry of Health approval of it is pending, said Miss Kellie. “If it was not offered in the north, the attendant would have to leave for a year to acquire the course. This way they can continue. I think it’s the first course of its kind they have offered on this basis.” Notre Dame is currently advertising for an attendant who has completed the course. Since it is not yet offered in the north, someone from the south will most likely be hired. “We’re training northerners in the north to improve services,” she stated.