By on March 21, 2012

Starting this week, residents of Osoyoos will now be the beneficiaries of a new specialized team of nurses trained to provide critical care en route to the Penticton Regional Hospital or once they arrive at the hospital.
Interior Health has announced a fifth High Acuity Response Team (HART) will be based in Penticton. While the team of six highly-trained critical care nurses will work out of Penticton, they will be available and on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist B.C. Ambulance personnel in Osoyoos, Oliver, Keremeos, Princeton and Summerland,  said Dr. Trevor Connolly, medical director of the HART and a veteran emergency room physician at Penticton Regional Hospital.
“This team of nurses will be available if additional medical care is needed on the way to hospital or once they arrive at the hospital in Penticton,” said Connolly. “Right now, B.C. Ambulance can’t infuse certain medications, but the nursing staff with HART will be able to do that.
“They also have additional training in areas like clearing airways … and they come self-sufficient with their own specialized equipment as well if they’re called to a scene.”
The launch of a HART team in Penticton is great news for surrounding rural communities, said Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff.
“Through their collaboration with the B.C. Ambulance service, this new HART team will provide a higher level of care to those patients who require it during transport.”
Connolly explained the program will involve B.C. Ambulance personnel still being responsible for transporting patients to hospital. However, if an initial assessment determines the expertise of a HART nurse is needed, a quick call can be placed.
If the assessment determines safe transport isn’t a problem and a HART nurse is needed upon arrival at hospital, that nurse will be informed immediately and will prepare to leave her regular duties at the Penticton hospital, he said.
“The HART members will be working regular duties until they receive a call that their services are needed,” he said.
The six nurses who have been hired will all be based out of Penticton Regional Hospital, where they will support emergency department and intensive care unit staff when not involved in patient transports, said Connolly.
Another benefit of the program is doctors and nurses who, under the old system, might have to transport a seriously ill patient from Oliver to Penticton, will no longer have to leave the hospital in Oliver as a HART nurse, can be called to assist, said Connolly.
When required, a respiratory therapist will also be called to assist, he said.
“Interior Health is committed to providing the highest quality care,” said Norman Embree, chair, Interior Health. “With the launch of the Penticton HART team, we’re not only providing increased support to very sick and injured patients during transfers, we’re also providing additional clinical support to the health-care team at Penticton Regional Hospital.”
Emergency room physicians across the South Okanagan will also play an integral role in the HART program as they will have access to satellite phones to talk with nurses called to emergency scenes, said Connolly.
Between B.C. Ambulance Services’ expertise in patient transport and the skill set provided by the HART team, patients will be receiving the extra support needed during high acuity transfers, said Kelly Murphy, corporate director of medical affairs and clinical networks for Interior Health.
“I know the Penticton HART team has been working hard in preparing for the launch and the team is committed to delivering the best care possible,” said Murphy.
The B.C. Ambulance Service will continue to play a key role in the transport of extremely ill and injured patients by providing expertise in basic life support, ambulance transportation and logistics, said Connolly.
“Local paramedics work closely with health care providers from our regional health authorities, hospitals and clinics to ensure patients receive optimal care and transport,” said Mike Michalko, executive director, rural operations for the ambulance service.
“With the introduction of the Penticton HART team, we will continue to work closely as a team to provide the necessary resources needed to transfer acute patients.”
Interior Health has provided $180,000 from the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation to help pay for new equipment needed for the HART program. Connolly said patients are going to receive better care throughout the South Okanagan.
“It’s going to be safer for the patient and that’s ultimately the goal of the program,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea and we’re glad to be on board here at the hospital in Penticton.”

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One Comment

  1. Susan Shendaruk

    March 22, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Please clarify this article. The way I read it Interior Health has added an additional step to patient transport that would include a time delay as the result of having to wait for a nurse to travel down here from Penticton. How many minutes does this new procedure add to an emergency medical transport as opposed to the way we do it now? By what means of transport will these Hart Nurses get themselves down here (helicopter/personal vehicle/ambulance)???
    Seems to me that if Interior Health insists on ‘centralizing’ everything thereby starving off the medical services in the smaller communities of the Okanagan; the smarter thing for them to do would be to provide emergency air ambulance (i.e.helicopter) with a full emergency/trauma team on board. A service like ‘STARS’ in Alberta seems more appropriate for rural areas.

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