Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Non Ambulance Transfer (NAT) van displayed at Pincher Creek Health Centre

South Zone EMS Manager of Clinical Operations Troy Linderman, Associate Executive Director Tony Pasich, NAT Team Lead Ron Lewison
Alberta Health Services / Toni Lucas - Thanks to the work of three local health foundations, a new wheelchair-accessible non-ambulance transfer (NAT) van is now in service alongside five other NAT vans currently in use in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS).  The first 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. Across Alberta, there are 24 NAT vans in service.  The new van, which went into service this month and which replaces a non-wheelchair accessible vehicle, is helping to free up ground ambulance resources throughout the west part of South Zone by transferring low-risk, medically stable patients.  It was jointly purchased by the Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation, Fort Macleod & District Health Foundation and the Windy Slopes Health Foundation, with each contributing $20,000 towards the $60,000 total cost.

The specially-equipped minivans transport patients between health care facilities for specialist consults, diagnostics and procedures. Previously, ground ambulances would be used for these scheduled, low-risk patient transfers. NAT vans are staffed by emergency medical responders and are equipped with automated electronic defibrillators, first-aid kits, and sophisticated GPS and communications equipment. As well, the vans can accommodate up to four seated passengers, or two passengers in wheelchairs.

"We initiated a project approximately one year ago where we approached three health foundations in Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass, and Fort MacLeod,"South Zone EMS Manager of Clinical Operations Troy Linderman explained during the May 17 display of the van at Pincher Creek Health Centre. "We did a presentation on what a NAT van is and does, and did a funding request from them for the purchase of one, which we would then operate in Alberta Health Services, EMS. They all agreed, and we have the van operational now." 

EMS Week was chosen to show the communities the new van, which will be stationed in Fort McLeod. The area the van will service will include Lethbridge, Cardston, Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek and the Crowsnest Pass. "The geographic area that this particular van will cover is more or less the former Chinook Health Region, with a focus on serving the Highway 3 corridor," said Linderman.

"We are trying to keep the ambulance resource within the communities, more often, and for higher acuity patients." The lower acuity patients and patient transfers for testing can be done using the van. There is only one EMS worker required to drive the van, whereas a minimum of two people staff an ambulance.

Donna Schauerte, Chair of the Windy Slopes Health Foundation, speaking on behalf of the trio of contributing foundations, said the foundations were happy to fund this vital transportation service for their area and agree that joint funding makes sense given the close approximation of their communities.

“We are fortunate to have ongoing community support for our health care and patients,” said Schauerte. “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,” she adds. “Our communities in each area are outstanding in contributing to our health care.”

The replacement NAT 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.

Tony Pasich, Director of EMS for AHS South Zone, said, “The NAT vans provide an appropriate level of care and service for thousands of patients every year. They also keep fully equipped ambulances and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews available in the community for patients who need a higher level of care.

“AHS EMS is always looking for ways to improve the patient experience and to use health care resources as efficiently as possible,” he said. “The new van helps us achieve both goals.

“For patients who are medically stable, capable of sitting in a seat, and who don’t require oxygen or an IV, NAT vans are a safe and comfortable way for them to get to their destination,” said Pasich.

Matthew Wells, 63, agrees. A resident at Lee Crest supportive living facility in Cardston since April 2013, he’s used a NAT van regularly for a year to attend his medical appointments at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.

“My son and daughter both live out of town, so it’s convenient to have transportation to my appointments. Using a NAT van for the 160-km round trip makes sense for people who don’t need an ambulance. The van is comfortable and it’s easy to get on and off with my wheelchair.”
"In five weeks, it has done 47 calls," said Pasich at the Pincher Creek demo.  He estimated approximately 20% of all calls that once required an ambulance can now use the NAT van instead. "It may be doing two trips a day which historically may have been being done by an ambulance."

Linderman estimated that "The community of Pincher Creek does about 1,100 calls a year, and of that, maybe 400-500 are IFT events (inter-facility transfers). Fifteen to twenty percent of that is a significant number of calls." 

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