The newly formed Medical First Responders (MFR) group in Alvena is the beneficiary of an AED donated by Cargill in Aberdeen. Pam Hilkewich, who up until recently was the only Medical First Responder in Alvena, sent out letters to local businesses requesting donations for the purchase of an automated external defibrillator (AED). The AED can automatically analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. On Friday January 22, Mark Halliday – Associate Breeder, Cargil Global Edibile Oil Solutions, North America, Aberdeen Division, contacted Pam to say they would like to donate the whole unit. The AED will be a tremendously valuable tool in the Alvena MFR toolkit that will save precious time when time is what matters most. Although Cargill has stepped up and answered the immediate need, any other donations will be put to good use in any number of areas like upgrading equipment, purchasing uniforms, or building a fund for a Medical First Responder vehicle.
Pam started her MFR journey in 2019. She said she had been interested in becoming a first responder for years, but the training was expensive, however through the Saskatchewan Health Authority she was able to receive free training and became the lone medical first responder in Alvena. She typically responds to three or four calls a year and nearly all of them are at night, which she admits can be a bit daunting when you are on your own. Steve and Michelle Skoworodko of Wakaw & District EMS, and Albert Venne, Wakaw First Responder Group Leader each donated some equipment in 2019 to help Pam get started since she was literally starting from scratch and this was a big boost for her. As well Colette and Michael Stan from the Wakaw Pharmacy donated a glucometer this year. The help of these local people and businesses Pam said, deserves a huge note of thanks. The Alvena Medical First Responders have no affiliation with Wakaw & District EMS or the Wakaw First Responders and are volunteers under the authority of the SHA.
Just recently Marlys Drader moved to Alvena from Victoria, British Columbia. She and Pam have been best friends for years and go way back to grade school. Pam convinced her old friend to take the training and join her as an MFR and thankfully Doug Penner was able to fit her in to one of his Safety Plus courses, so she was able to complete her pre-requisite Level C First Aid/CPR prior to the start of the course.
Marlys and Pam are dispatched through Medavie in Saskatoon. When a 911 is received the operator determines if First Responders should be dispatched as there are some situations when they will not be dispatched. Currently due to the pandemic, the SHA responders are the only First Responders being dispatched as they have had proper PPE/COVID training and the SHA has provided PPE to each group of first responders registered through them.
Alvena of course also has a volunteer fire department led by Fire Chief Justin Matheson and Deputy Fire Chief Cole Sawitsky. Approximately five or six years ago the volunteer fire fighters also took their First Aid/CPR training when a Zoll AED was donated to the Village. There are instances when the fire department could be called upon to support the first responders, in particular if there was a situation on the highway they were responding to, and then theSaskatchewan Public Safety Agency would dispatch the Alvena fire department.
“The role of the MFR (Medical First Responder) is to work with ambulance services to provide emergency care”1 and in rural areas they can greatly reduce the amount of time patients wait for initial care. Medical First Responders ensure the Emergency Medical Services system has been activated, gain safe access to the patient, assess the patient’s condition and provide emergency treatment and basic life support until an ambulance and/or paramedics arrive.
Medical First Responders go through 40 hours of classroom instruction and on completion of the course are registered with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and oriented into the program. As part of their license all MFR’s must take mandatory educational courses to be relicensed and partake in ongoing continuing education. Some of the training MFR’s receive in the program include anatomy, patient assessment, oxygen therapy, and medical and trauma emergencies. As well they receive instruction and hands-on practical training in CPR and AED.
If anyone is interested in joining Pam and Marlys as Medical First Responders, applications are accepted year round and then are kept on file for upcoming courses. All applicants must submit a criminal record check with their application and approved applicants will be contacted. Although the program is a volunteer one, there are tax credits available if enough hours are amassed.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder