Victims of Major Trauma Receive Faster Paramedic Care in North Thompson

Kamloops-based Autolaunch program now in effect to benefit area patients suffering major trauma

KAMLOOPS – Starting today, patients suffering from major trauma in the Interior will receive paramedic care faster as the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) Autolaunch program takes effect.

Through the simultaneous dispatch of a ground ambulance and a critical care paramedic crew via helicopter to accident scenes, Autolaunch provides rapid transport and critical care paramedics for patients who require definitive care at a designated trauma hospital. Activating the helicopter and critical care paramedic teams as an initial response reduces the time it takes to get patients to advanced trauma care.

“This kind of innovation uses our health care resources in the most effective way possible to achieve the best possible emergency medical care for victims of major trauma in the Interior,” said Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake.

Based on information provided by 911 callers, BCAS dispatchers identify calls that indicate that the patient would likely benefit from an Autolaunch response. A dedicated air ambulance helicopter with a team of critical care paramedics and a ground ambulance are dispatched immediately.  The responding ground ambulance is advised an Autolaunch has been initiated and is given the aircraft’s estimated time of arrival. If the ground crew arrives on scene and feels that the patient does not require air transport to a Trauma hospital, the paramedics can cancel the incoming critical care paramedic team who then returns to the helicopter base to await their next call.

“Getting the right patients to the trauma center that can best provide care for their injuries as quickly as possible is critical for those patients with major injuries,” stresses Dr. Stephen Wheeler, Medical Director, Emergency and Health Services Commission Critical Care Transport Program. “Reduced transport times to trauma centres results in better patient outcomes and reduced hospital stays and health care system costs.”

Prior to the Autolaunch program, patients were initially taken by ground ambulance to the closest local hospital where an air ambulance transfer to a trauma center would be requested by the emergency department physician. Autolaunch has reduced overall times from the initial 911 call to arrival at a major trauma center by several hours in many cases.

Since initiating the trial program in July 2004, Autolaunch has operated successfully in the Vancouver Island, Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health authorities, the East Kootenay and the western region of the Northern Health Authority.  In the Interior, the Kamloops-based helicopter response area includes Williams Lake to the north, across to Revelstoke, the U.S. border to the south and Nakusp to the east.

BCAS dispatchers prioritize ambulance calls similar to a triage in the hospital emergency room; patients with the most severe conditions are seen first.  When contacting 911, callers should be prepared to answer questions, listen carefully and try to remain calm.

BCAS operates under the authority of the Emergency and Health Services Commission (EHSC) and provides public ambulance service throughout British Columbia. The EHSC has the legislated mandate under the Emergency and Health Services Act to provide B.C. residents and healthcare professionals with access to pre-hospital emergency and patient transfer services. The EHSC also oversees BC Bedline and Trauma Services BC. The EHSC is a division of the Provincial Health Services Authority which manages high-quality specialized health care services across British Columbia.