Parkland Ambulance looks toward a bright future

Jodi Schellenberg
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It was a great year for Parkland Ambulance in Prince Albert and they are looking forward to more good news in 2014.

Lyle Karasiuk highlighted some of the accomplishments achieved by the Parkland Ambulance this year and talked about some of the projects they are looking forward to next year.

According to Lyle Karasiuk, director of public affairs for Parkland Ambulance, the biggest accomplishment for 2013 was the renovations that were successfully completed on the Second Avenue West facility.

“The additional space we gained and the ability for our staff to have much needed working room and the ability to improve the level of care that we can deliver is probably our single biggest accomplishment of 2013,” Karasiuk said. “I think we are really excited that that project has come and gone because a year ago at this time our crew was cozy in their temporary quarters, which were in the basement. Now they have some beautiful 3,000 square foot space of living accommodations and offices upstairs.”

The paramedic and telecommunication teams also have shown great community service throughout the year, he said.

“Parkland Ambulance maintains a very large community service presence and we are well in excess of 875 hours that our staff has donated to the community,” Karasiuk said. “When you consider that we are just a staff of slightly over 60 people, that is a huge accomplishment for the men and women who work with Parkland Ambulance and we are very pleased and very ecstatic that our staff step up and volunteer.”

They volunteer at community events, like the Raiders games, school career fairs, education programs and many other events.

“Many of those opportunities where people see our paramedics are in fact volunteers,” Karasiuk said. “Certainly the agencies we work with benefit from those volunteer hours but as an organization we are very, very pleased that the paramedics and telecommunications staff do donate as much as they do. We are very confident and hopeful they will continue to do that in 2014.”

There are events coming up, like the Saskatchewan Winter Games, that will call for volunteers and other events he hopes the staff will volunteer for.

In addition to their regular volunteer hours, Parkland Ambulance staff also pick a charity to support every year. This year they chose the Salvation Army Adopt a Family program.

“This year the staff themselves raised $400 for the Salvation Army Adopt A Family,” Karasiuk said. “Again, it just shows the generosity of staff and their commitment not only in time but monetary value to support the families.”

Karasiuk said they are also pleased with the dedication the staff have to their jobs every day.

This year, two paramedics -- Sheldon Hirschfeld and Kelly Straf -- went into a burning apartment to save some children.

“Certainly the events that Sheldon and Kelly highlighted this year, which they have been very well recognized for, are one of our achievements but certainly every day in many ways, the men and women of Parkland Ambulance, both the paramedics and telecommunications staff, exceed your expectations,” Karasiuk said. “We certainly try to do that.”

Throughout the year, they receive hundreds of thank-you cards and notes from families and clients they have helped.

“People are very appreciative, not only for the fact that in their time of emergency we were there in a timely fashion but there are so many ways that our staff go out of their way to do the little extra comforts or care and going the extra way to help families and providing that extra few minutes of information they can share with families, respectful of the situation and the legislature they work under,” Karasiuk said. “We are just so pleased with the men and women who work with Parkland Ambulance.”

Like every year, Karasiuk said their biggest challenge is the one they face daily -- delivering their services in a timely fashion.

“Like any business in the community, we are always growing and we are always looking for new staff,” Karasiuk said. “Does that pose a challenge for us? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t but we are very confident in the great people that we have working within our organization now.

“We are really pleased with the team we have and excited that they have chosen to be with us here at Parkland Ambulance and we will continue to grow into 2014,” Karasiuk said. “I think for us, the highlight is our construction and that is going to certainly lead into what we are going to be doing in 2014.”

There will be a couple of big changes coming for Parkland Ambulance in 2014, he said.

“The first will happen in early February if all the plans come to fruition, which is a brand new computer aided dispatch radio system that is coming in,” Karasiuk said. “To the public, they certainly won’t notice anything huge, but to our telecommunications staff it is big.”

The dispatch system will make a difference in the accuracy and information they collect and the statistics they can provide.

The first phase is getting the communications staff comfortable with the new tools, he said. It should be ready by early February.

Once it is in place, they will be able to make some changes in the ambulances for paramedics.

“Ultimately, as we move through the phases of the computer operated dispatch program, we will see we will end up with what we call mobile data terminals in our ambulances, which will give the paramedics responding to the emergency access to simple things like Google mapping, but more important they will be able to provide the paramedics with resources about the call they are going to in real time of what the dispatcher is getting,” Karasiuk said.

“Rather than the dispatcher having to transmit that file on the radio and say you are going for this and this and this and the situation means you should stage back and wait for city police -- that information can be transmitted right to a mobile data terminal in the next phase.”

Not only will it help both the telecommunications and paramedics, the new system could also be useful if there is a large-scale event in Prince Albert.

“One of the things when we built our communications centre and renovated it as well, in 2013 we built a boardroom right up directly below our communications centre,” Karasiuk said. “What that means is not only do we have a meting space, we also have the ability to create what we call an emergency operations centre.

“In the event there is a large scale event in Prince Albert, we can isolate it by created our emergency operations centre directly below,” he added. “Technology allows us to do that now and construction that we’ve put in. That will be a huge bonus.”

The other exciting news, Karasiuk said, is the PCP will have an expanded scope of practice.

“Just recently, just days ago, the Saskatchewan protocols, which are the treatment protocols all of our paramedics work under, have been released with what we call expanded scope for our (PCP),” Karasiuk said. “What we have seen in our PCP is an expanded scope, meaning they can do more things. They can issue intravenous therapy now in situations, they can add and have available to them additional medications to treating a wide variety of situations.

“That will definitely improve the level of care we can provide to the citizens of the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region,” he added.

That is a change the public will notice, since it will be a huge improvement in the level of care they can provide, Karasiuk said.

“Just knowing when we get there, a (PCP) will be able to do just a little bit more, rather than possibly where in this year they may have had to call for backup from another level of practitioner to provide that advanced care,” Karasiuk said.

Parkland Ambulance is also looking forward to some growth in the new year.

“We certainly hope to be continuing our growth pattern which means as we expand the level of service, as we consider to deliver the great service we have come to deliver, we hope to be adding some new and additional staff into 2014,” Karasiuk said. “Those things are always dictated by a number of factors that go into those decisions.”

Since New Year’s Eve is coming up, Karasiuk reminded everyone to stay safe while having fun.

“We certainly want to wish everyone within Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and all of our clients and customers a safe, happy and healthy and very prosperous 2014 and we look forward to working with them in many ways, not only in the emergency services we provide but certainly through our community relations portfolio and in our community development portfolios.”  

Organizations: Salvation Army, Google

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region

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