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Health foundations share cost of non-ambulance transfer van

The new van is wheelchair-accessible.

The new van is wheelchair-accessible.

Non-ambulance transfer van driver Ron Lewison discusses the new vehicle with Fort Macleod Mayor Rene Gendre.

Non-ambulance transfer van driver Ron Lewison discusses the new vehicle with Fort Macleod Mayor Rene Gendre.

A ramp folds down to allow a wheelchair to be put inside the van.

A ramp folds down to allow a wheelchair to be put inside the van.

A new vehicle that will improve patient service while freeing up ambulances for critical calls was displayed Friday in Fort Macleod.
The $60,000 wheelchair-accessible non-ambulance transfer van was parked at Fort Macleod Health Centre during a Paramedic Week event.
The new van replaces one that was not wheelchair-accessible and is used to transport low-risk, medically stable patients.
Fort Macleod Health Foundation shared the cost of the van with two other health foundations.
“There was a request by our EMS service for another non-ambulance transfer van that could be stationed in this area,” Joel said.
Health foundation members considered the request, noting the vehicle would be used to transport patients across southwestern Alberta, not just in Fort Macleod.
The foundation discussed the situation with Alberta Health Services liaison Tom Gillespie.
Fort Macleod suggested the Windy Slopes Health Foundation in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation be brought into the project.
“We suggested it be jointly funded,” Joel said.
The health foundations in Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass each chipped in $20,000 to cover the cost of the new van.
“It was a really good joint venture between the health foundations,” Joel said.
Windy Slopes Health Foundation chair Donna Schauerte agreed, explaining it made sense for the three health foundations in such close proximity to spit the cost.
“We are fortunate to have ongoing community support for our health care and patients,” Schauerte said in a news release. “This is a crucial service, not only in freeing up ambulances for priority trips, but helping our patients who might not have family or alternative transportation to medical appointments.”
“Our communities in each area are outstanding in contributing to our health care.”
The Fort Macleod foundation used money it raised by volunteering at a casino to cover its share.
The new van is one of six in use in the south zone of Alberta Health Services that will transport about 1,500 patients each year.
“Quite often patients are needing to go in for tests, especially out of Fort Macleod,” Joel said. “Often it’s difficult for families to take people. They need some assistance but they’re not so sick or so ill that they need an ambulance.”
The vans, which are staffed and driven by emergency medical responders, transport patients between health care facilities for specialist consults, diagnostics and procedures.
Previously ground ambulances would be used for the transfers.
Each van has an automated electronic defibrillator, first-aid kit and GPS and communications equipment.
The vans accommodate up to four seated passengers or two passengers in wheelchairs.
“The vans provide an appropriate level of care and service for thousands of patients every year,” said Tony Pasich, director of emergency medical service for the south zone, said in a news release. “They also keep fully equipped ambulances and emergency medical services crews available in the community for patients who need a higher level of care.”
Pasich said Alberta Health Services and its EMS department is always looking for ways to serve patients better and use resources efficiently.
“The new van helps us achieve both goals,” Pasich said.
The new van is expected to make as many as 480 trips annually — about 20 per cent of all ground ambulance calls in the western area of south zone.
Five vans have been operating in south zone since 2013, with two based in Raymond and three based in Brooks.
The new van is based in Fort Macleod.

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