Firefighters back their medic role

By Amy McGillivray

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Western Bay volunteer firefighters are dismissing claims they should not be called as first response in medical issues.

An independent Fire Service review ordered by Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain is due this month and is expected to cover the operational functions of the Fire Service and the issue of medical response volumes.

Stuff.co.nz reported some Waikato fire chiefs were unhappy with the way they were increasingly being called out to medical jobs and feared it would not be long until someone died on their watch.

Maketu fire chief Shane Beech said being first response to medical callouts worked well and was just another part of the job which firefighters were trained to deal with.

The closest St John station to Maketu is in Te Puke and an ambulance could take between 15 and 45 minutes to get there, Mr Beech said.

"We're pretty well first on the scene," he said.

He estimated his team would attend between 100 and 150 medical jobs each year.

"We believe it's all about looking after your community whether it's a fire, a motor vehicle accident or a medical call," he said.

Because of the distance from a St John station the Maketu volunteer fire brigade also has a dedicated medical vehicle and monthly training days with St John staff.

Mr Beech said their job was to make the patient as comfortable as possible and keep St John staff updated until they arrived.

The team was equipped with defibrillators and other basic medical equipment but could not administer drugs, Mr Beech said.

Mr Beech said he was 100 per cent supportive of the role the Fire Service played and saw no need to change it.

"If you haven't got the resources in your community then obviously the Fire Service are the first people that can help until St John turns up."

Omokoroa fire chief Ian Blunt agreed.

Mr Blunt said his team responded to about five medical calls a year as St John stations were much more handy to the town.

Omokoroa firefighters were all trained in basic first aid but do not have a dedicated medical vehicle, he said.

"If we can help somebody we can help them," he said. 'We've got the basic knowledge and training and we can suffice until the advanced paramedics get there."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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