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Glen Abernethy: Med-Response

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to announce the official launch of the Med-Response call centre. Members of the Standing Committee on Social Programs joined me earlier today at Stanton Territorial Hospital to celebrate this milestone.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is breaking new ground in Canada with this single window approach to clinical consultation, and air ambulance triage and dispatch. Med-Response will improve access to services and quality of care for people across the Northwest Territories, by providing immediate clinical support to health care practitioners in all communities via a simple toll-free number.

Med-Response is not a service directly available to the public, Mr. Speaker, but our patients and their families will experience immediate benefit. Previously, when faced with a potentially critical situation, a Community Health Nurse had to make multiple calls to access physician advice, order an air ambulance, provide updates and coordinate information flow. He or she would do this while trying to support and stabilize an ill or injured patient, and assess whether an air ambulance was required.

From now on, one phone call to Med-Response will give our community health care providers access to all the clinical support they need. The call centre, located in Yellowknife is manned by Emergency Medical Dispatchers and Emergency Medical Coordinators who are registered nurses. They are on the line immediately with the community health practitioner, allowing several things to happen at once: the Dispatcher can immediately contact our Air Ambulance provider, while the Coordinator can assess the situation and get the appropriate physician or specialist on the line. Coordinating the whole process on one multi-party phone line, replaces numerous calls, repeating the same information to various parties.

Reducing the time a community health practitioner has to spend on the phone allows them to focus on the patient. In urgent situations, an air ambulance can be dispatched earlier and eliminate situations when medevac flights are delayed because of telephone reception issues in remote locations.

In addition to improved communication, faster response times and a reduced risk of error, all calls to Med-Response are recorded, providing a higher level of quality assurance.

Mr. Speaker, although the call centre officially opened today, staff have been testing scenarios and introducing the service since November 2014. While cost savings is not the primary goal of Med-Response, we are already seeing potential for efficiencies. In some situations, immediate access to physician support has confirmed an air ambulance was not required. In other situations, the call centre has been able to deploy air ambulance flights that are already en route to pick up another patient, thereby reducing the number of flights and turnaround time.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services and Stanton Territorial Hospital have put in place an evaluation framework so that we can monitor how Med-Response is improving the system and our services. In the future, we see potential for broader application of this service. For example, the call centre may play a key role in supporting first responders or health practitioners in communities without resident nurses.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude with a quote from a Community Health Nurse who has already had the opportunity to use the Med-Response service. She says:

“When it’s after hours and you’re all by yourself, Med-Response gives you more time to focus on the patient instead of stopping all the time to pick up the phone. It’s pretty efficient. You feel like the team is right there for you.”

I am proud of the work that has been done to make Med-Response a reality, and of the exceptional service the team at Stanton is already providing. Med-Response is one example of how working as a single system across the territory can help realize our vision of Best Health, Best Care, for a Better Future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.