Local boost for Behchoko health care services

Local boost for Behchoko health care services
Behchoko’s EMS staff, from left: Lawrence Lafferty, Samantha Drybones, Tracey Debaie and Darin Daniels stand in front of their new ambulance.Photo: Kevin Armstrong.

New Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) graduates from Behchoko are the integral part of a much-needed rejuvenation of the Behchoko ambulance services, according to the Tlicho Community Services Agency (TCSA).

Three new graduates were recently hired after undergoing EMR training in the community in partnership with the Tlicho Government and Stanton Territorial Hospital.

All eight of the graduates from the EMR training are local Tlicho community members. With the three new hires to the ambulance services, eight out of 10 of the first responders are now Tlicho.

Kevin Armstrong, TCSA’s chief executive officer, told The Journal last week that the ambulance department at the Mary Adele Bishop Health Centre in Behchoko has struggled with retaining trained staff for years, with most being recruited from outside the community.

“We were really dependent on southern workers. Our local staff before was only trained to drive the ambulance and they couldn’t attend patients, so we had to keep recruiting from the south,” he said.

Last year the Tlicho Government partnered with the TCSA and provided $50,000 towards EMR training for local residents with Arctic Response Ltd.

“It seems like a no-brainer. To build up local capacity in the community has always been one of our goals,” Armstrong said.

Some of the graduates were also trained in taking blood samples, lab work and chest x-rays, duties typically done by nurses at the health centre.

Dave Harnum, manager of the Behchoko ambulance department, said having the ambulance members take on small tasks at the health centre goes a long way in taking stress off the nursing staff.

“Nurses have so many tasks they have to complete, so in the morning we basically do all the blood work so the nurses can focus on their programs,” Harnum said.

Robert Simpson is one of the three new recruits to the ambulance service after taking the training course last year.

“I really enjoy it. I’m learning new things every day,” Simpson said.

Born in Yellowknife and raised in Whati, Simpson has been living in Behchoko for the last 20 years and said the community, particularly the elders, are happy to see locals working for the health centre.

“It’s really good that most of the ambulance crew are Dene. Most of them can talk in our language and help to translate for the elders. The elders really appreciate their own people working in the clinic,” he said.

Simpson said he hopes more youth in the community are drawn to work for the health clinic or ambulance services in order to keep up the Tlicho language in the workforce.

New, upgraded ambulance

On top of the new recruits, the health centre also received a brand new ambulance, custom made for the challenges associated with serving a remote area.

In total, the Mary Adele Bishop Health Centre services around 2,000 residents in the Behchoko area as well as a large portion of Hwy. 3.

Harnum said the average call for first responders takes around four hours. The ambulance was custom built as a 4×4 with a larger fuel capacity and more head room.

“For us, we have a huge highway, we have all the ice roads and everything that we carry so we need to have a bigger unit to carry more equipment and make it more comfortable for the patient,” he said.

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