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Kelowna Fire Department's first medical response policy saves lives

Concerns over the cost and efficiency of a system that sends Kelowna Fire Department to medical emergencies ahead of the ambulance service, were largely laid to rest Monday afternoon.

"I have here five situations that we pulled from our records in 2011, where we used an automated external defibrillator," said fire chief Jeffrey Carlisle, during Monday's city council meeting.

"(Patients) didn't have pulse when we arrived, but they did when we passed them over (to the ambulance.)"

Although those five lives were a compelling testimonial about the success of the system, council was also swayed by another number.

Having fire trucks dispatched to medical emergencies, like respiratory problems, bleeding or cardiac arrest on a discretionary basis, rings in at a bargain basement cost of $64,500 a year.

That covers off wear and tear of fire trucks, medical supplies and training.

Overall, Carlisle said it shows the first medical response program is of "high public value and low public cost."

Coun. Gerry Zimmermann went one step further, saying he thought it was one of the "most valuable services" the city offered.

"If you're out in the Mission, your chance of getting a fire truck before an ambulance is just about 100 per cent." he said.

"The service is very valuable, but what I question is the financing and the administration of it."

Zimmermann explained that medical response services are supposed to be funded by the province, but there are no dollars directed to the local program from that branch of government.

"It's the right thing to do but there are discussions we need to have in the future," he said.

It may also make sense to see the administrative duties of fire and ambulance one day amalgamate, he said.

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