Because every second counts!

An Hour To Save Your Life Episode 1

B.C. HEROS medical director Dr. M.J. Slabbert, a prehospital-trained emergency medicine specialist, now working in Prince George as the intensive care unit medical director at University Hospital of Northern B.C., is featured in a documentary which followed her to the scene of a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident in North London, England.

At the time, Dr. Slabbert was working for London Air Ambulance and she arrived on the scene in a helicopter which landed in a nearby field. The video shows Slabbert working to stabilize the critically-injured patient, an adult male with two broken ankles, internal abdominal injuries and extensive lacerations of his face and arms.

The “treat and transport” method of prehospital care shown in the documentary helps save the lives of three critically-injured patients. By bringing the hospital to the patient within the Golden Hour, the chances of survival increase significantly and the morbidity of injuries and serious medical conditions can be substantially reduced. M.J.’s initial concern to set the man’s broken legs at the scene restored blood flow and nerve connectivity and likely prevented would have resulted in an amputation.

The three doctors demonstrate why British Columbians should continue to demand of their provincial politicians that they scrap the “scoop and run” approach to emergency patient care outside of a hospital and adopt a modernized method of prehospital care throughout the province which allows doctors and/or advanced care paramedics to arrive with pain-killing drugs, blood products, and advanced live-saving techniques, the likes of which have been used in other provinces and countries for decades.

You can watch M.J. in action here:

Hans Dysarsz re-joins HEROS team as Executive Director

The B.C. Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operations Society (HEROS), formerly known as B.C. HEROS, is pleased to announce that Hans J. Dysarsz has rejoined the HEROS team as Executive Director.

Hans was the initial prime mover who inspired the founding of the Prince George-based HEROS initiative in March of 2012. For 35 years, he has been a staunch advocate for improved EMS/prehospital care throughout B.C.

Hans has extensive domestic and international EMS model knowledge and has worked as both a medivac pilot as well as an aircraft manufacturer ‘in-house’ EMS expert. While in that position, Hans traveled extensively worldwide to attend international EMS conferences and studied many different EMS models, their benefits and shortcomings.

He was a founding director of the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) and played an integral role in securing a dedicated medical helicopter for B.C.'s north coast based in Prince Rupert.

With Hans's return to the HEROS team, the organization will change its mission from one of seeking to become a helicopter EMS operator, to one as a public educator and political lobby group on the tremendous benefits of doctor/paramedic-led EMS.

HEROS’ new mission will show the general public that by improving B.C.’s entire EMS delivery model, not only will BCEHS be able to save many more lives but will also be able to dramatically reduce permanent injuries as well as reduce the numbers of long-term care patients. As important, HEROS will prove to all that will listen and learn that by changing our chosen ‘Scoop and Run’ EMS model to the Franco-German ‘Stabilize and Transport EMS model, B.C. society and taxpayers will save billions of dollars moving forward. To be clear, B.C. does not employ anything even remotely close to a state-of-the-art EMS model, and our loved ones, the patients (and the rank and file members of BCEHS) are paying the price.

Hans is the father of a 15-year-old daughter. He enjoys B.C.’s great outdoors whenever possible, he loves to ride his mountain bike, playing tennis and lacrosse. Hans owns a small clean energy research firm which has developed a highly-promising new high-output, ultra-low cost clean energy process.

Hans, his daughter and their chocolate lab reside in South Delta, B.C.

Most of B.C. lacks 24-hour ALS helicopter coverage

B.C. HEROS has produced this map which illustrates the availability of dedicated helicopter air ambulance programs staffed 24-hours-per-day by advanced life support (ALS) paramedics in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.The rationale was to provide an objective overview so that people could see an accurate representation and decide for themselves whether we in B.C. are adequately resourced or not. The information was gathered from Adam's Air Med Atlas for the U.S. programs and through research for the Canadian programs.

One issue that people will likely point out is that neither the Bell 412 in Kamloops nor the S 76 Sikorsky in Prince Rupert (both operated by the B.C. Ambulance Service) appear on the map. This is because the Prince Rupert machine is not an ALS resource and the Kamloops program is daytime-only operation. In researching the map, we asked a former BCAS basic life support (BLS) paramedic, asked if they were both a 24-hour service and that they were ALS staffed. "I did call many", he said, "and the response from those I spoke to was, 'Of course we're an ALS 24-hour program. Who would run a BLS or daytime-only service?.'"

CDI study finds B.C.'s helicopter emergency medical system not serving needs of British Columbians

In 2016, HEROS commissioned a study with the University of B.C.'s research arm, the Community Development Institute to find out what air ambulance helicopter systems exist in other provinces in Canada. The study found B.C.'s emergency medical system is woefully inadequate to protect its citizens, especially in rural areas where time and distance away from definitive medical care can be measured in hours. With only four helicopters dedicated for medical purposes (two in Richmond, one in Kamloops and one in Prince Rupert), there are far too many gaps in coverage that put the health of British Columbians at serious risk in the event of an emergency. The findings of the CDI study

HEROS supports Harris report calling for equal access to emergency services for all British Columbians

Health Canada summarizes the primary objective of Canadian health care policy, which is “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”

The long-awaited release in February 2017 of B.C. Forest Safety Council ombudsman Roger Harris’s report of the state of province’s helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) highlights the deficiencies in the current system of pre-hospital care which have left British Columbians in rural and remote regions dangerously unprotected.

For far too long, sick or injured residents of north central B.C. and other rural areas of the province have been grossly underserved in times of emergency when their health and welfare is threatened, due to provincial policies which fail to provide timely transport to trauma centres. British Columbians, no matter where they are in the province, deserve reasonable access to health services and the same level of care as every other Canadian.

As a result of choices made by the B.C. Ambulance Service, B.C. Emergency Health Services and, ultimately, the provincial government, not everybody has equal access to adequate emergency response. The current system of emergency medical transportation is failing rural residents, denying them of better alternatives already used in other jurisdictions. We will no longer accept the argument that because we choose to live, work and play in rural and remote areas we should have to accept greater risks in the event of an accident or serous medical incident.

We at B.C. HEROS (Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operations Society) recognized five years ago when we established our non-profit society there are serious gaps in the current system of emergency medical transportation services which must be addressed. We advocate the use of rapid-response air ambulance helicopters that can reach every person in the province and deliver them directly to a hospital.

B.C. continues to lag behind other provinces, U.S., states and other countries which recognized decades ago the value of dispatching helicopters with highly-trained medical personnel to bring the hospital to the patient.

As Harris’s report highlights, people living near large urban areas are well-protected with adequate resources (ground and air) to transport patients to hospitals within minutes. But highway travelers, forestry workers, miners, hunters, fishing enthusiasts, snowmobilers, hikers, bikers or residents of rural areas of B.C. lack that protection. If they get hurt, hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometres away from major hospitals, chances are there will not be a rescue helicopter coming to save them. The location of the patient should not be the deciding factor which determines an appropriate emergency response. The severity of patient’s condition and their level of discomfort should be the prime considerations.

Delays in transport can lead to increased morbidity of injuries, resulting in longer recovery times for patients and loss of productivity in the workforce. B.C. Emergency Health Services estimates trauma costs the province $5 billion a year. That does not take into account the recovery times of patients who suffer heart attacks, strokes, diabetic shock or other time-sensitive medical conditions.

Harris recommends the province increase its HEMS coverage so that every citizen is within one hour of a Level 3 trauma centre. That could require as many as eight provincially-funded helicopter bases. Currently the B.C. Ambulance Service has just four dedicated helicopters (two in Vancouver, one in Kamloops and one in Prince Rupert) operating out of three bases. While the costs of outfitting those bases with equipment, pilots and paramedics would be substantial, saving a limb or breaking up a clot in a stroke victim could result in huge health care savings down the line with better patient outcomes. Who can put a price tag on the value of saving one life?

As the health provider for British Columbians, it’s time the provincial government took steps to guarantee people who live and work in rural and remote areas, where much of the province’s wealth is generated, have access to rapid-response emergency transport. Rural British Columbians in emergency situations should not be treated as second-class citizens because they decide to live or work away from urban areas. As Harris states, the lack of emergency transport protection for workers and their families has a detrimental effect on their willingness to relocate to rural parts of the province.

Why is it that Alaska, with a population of 700,000, has 31 dedicated emergency helicopters, while B.C., with a population of about 3,000,000 has just four dedicated for medical purposes? All Alaskans are within one hour of a trauma centre and Washington state has introduced legislation to meet similar guidelines. B.C. needs to do the same.

Harris’s suggestion that the B.C. Emergency Health Services Act be revised to allow first responders other than B.C. Ambulance Service employees to transport patients is long overdue. The distances are too vast and population spread too thin to expect one agency to be able to adequately serve the province as the sole provider of emergency medical transportation.

The use of helicopters equipped with hoist systems would, in many cases, reduce the need for ground ambulances to be dispatched and would get paramedics to the scene rapidly, rather than having to wait for search and rescue personnel to move the patent to an open area. Considering the province’s abundance of remote worksites and recreational areas in forested areas and mountainous terrain, paramedics and other first responders should be trained in the use of off-road vehicles such as quads and snowmobiles to give them a faster means of reaching patients who get hurt away from paved roads.

Now is the time for the provincial government to act now on Harris’s findings, to address the alarming shortcomings of B.C.’s emergency medical transportation system. Rural and remote patients have been penalized long enough by delays in evacuation which cause needless suffering and preventable deaths. Our lives matter.

BC HEROS a non-profit society dedicated to the task of saving lives and improving medical outcomes for victims of serious trauma by providing the North Central Interior region with a dedicated helicopter emergency medical system.

We will give the people of British Columbia an emergency rescue system that will not only save lives but significantly reduce the time it takes to provide patients with specialized medical care. Minutes after a 911 call is received, our dedicated HEROS team of paramedics, critical care nurses and, if needed, emergency doctors, will be flying to the scene in our rescue helicopter.

What's been said...

"This is a very wise investment. Services like we are proposing will make a huge difference in saving lives, delivering emergency care sooner, and working to keep people out of expensive longterm care facilities."

~ Roberta Squire, Communications Director, BC HEROS

"It's the remote people and people in highway accidents 50 or 100 kilometers away from the city who notice it more. If there's a life-threatening accident they will send a helicopter and land it right on the highway."

~ Wayne Drysdale, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA, whose Alberta riding is served by the non-profit STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) air ambulance service

"The faster you get a patient to a higher level of emergency care, typically at a larger hospital, the better the outcome for their longterm recovery and the better the chances of reducing complications in treatment. That’s why rapid transportation is such a key aspect of the emergency medical system."

~ STARS spokesman Mike Haska, in Prince George Citizen article published, Jan. 23, 2012

"Things are so much more spread out up north. If there is a trauma, we need the air ambulance to come to the rescue and save our lives because we simply don't always have the time to wait several hours. The fact that a compact area such as Vancouver can have a helicopter service yet the north does not is mind-blowing to me. Considering how much revenue B.C. contributes to the B.C. budget, it's like a slap in the face to the people in the north."

~ Andrew Furmanczyk, Prince George

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