BC doctor says better health-care services are needed on search and rescue missions

BC doctor says better health-care services are needed on search and rescue missions

A BC doctor is advocating for more advanced health-care providers to be a part of backcountry rescues.

Dr. Doug Brown, a Royal Columbian Hospital emergency physician and volunteer with North Shore Rescue, said search-and-rescue teams in BC needed to have more access to doctors or health-care providers to bring along for serious rescues.

Brown said with the approval of nighttime hoist rescues involving critical injuries, search and rescue teams need a health-care professional who can provide immediate treatment in the field.

“There needs to be an advanced-care provider, paramedic or physician, that can come to their side and take care of them,” Brown told Global News.

“We don’t have a lot of infrastructure to support those teams even if they have physicians.

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“We don’t have a ton of infrastructure to actually support them delivering the care.”

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Without teams bringing in an advanced health-care provider, those who are being rescued can be further subjected to more trauma, he added.

“We need to be able to give them pain medication,” he said.

Brown was part of a joint nighttime rescue operation near Lion’s Bay at the end of January.

North Shore Rescue conducted a nighttime hoist, equipped with night-vision goggles, to rescue a paraglider who fell about 50 feet in a crash.

The man suffered a serious fracture to one of his femurs.

“When a call like that comes in… a paraglider crashes with a probable broken leg, that immediately (makes us) dust off the big red button,” he said.

“Everybody tries to go as quickly as we can while being safe.”

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Global News asked BC Minister of Emergency Management Bowinn Ma if the province would be willing to staff rescues with doctors when patients are believed to be critically injured.

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“BC’s ground search and rescue crews are teams of highly committed and trained volunteers who excel at getting into potentially dangerous situations, finding people and extracting them to connect them to pre-hospital support services,” she said in response.

“Pre-hospital emergency health services are provided by BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS). They are the coordinating entity for getting people who have been injured the kind of support they need before heading to the hospital.”

In a follow-up, the ministry said BCEHS has not requested the province provide support beyond first aid and extraction through search-and-rescue teams, nor was it aware of any requests from those teams to fund medical personnel on rescues.

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