Dufferin EMS marks 50 years of service in the region

October 1, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Marni Walsh

Dufferin County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will celebrate 50 years of service to the community on Sept. 29.

The celebrations include an open house and barbecue on Saturday (Sept. 29) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Orangeville Ambulance base, 325 Blind Line. “Through the support of our community and our leadership at the County of Dufferin and at Headwaters, our service has developed into a lot more than just a ride to the Hospital,” said EMS Chief Tom Reid.

The Dufferin County EMS currently consists of a team of 62, including paramedics and support staff, with stations in Orangeville, Shelburne, and Grand Valley. The team completes over 10,000 service calls a year.

“Having had the opportunity to accompany our paramedics in the community,” said Stacey Daub, President and CEO, Headwaters Health Care Centre, “I have seen first-hand the incredible partnership that exists between the paramedics, our community members and our hospital. This partnership creates a great platform to care for our community, together.”

Chief Reid shared some history from the past 50 years with this newspaper this week. “In the early days, there were no ambulance services available so people had to find their own way to the hospital or doctor,” he said. “Physicians would make house calls using various types of vehicles, including horses.”

The earliest first response vehicle in the County of Dufferin was a Ford Model A equipped with skis and tracks, owned by Shelburne’s two doctors.

“Later, funeral homes were the primary source of ambulance services, playing a dual role as body removal and emergency response.”

Chief Reid said that in the 1960s the Ministry of Health commissioned Dr. Norman H. McNally to develop an integrated system of ambulance services. A retired army surgeon, Dr. McNally revolutionized EMS in Ontario by standardizing staff training and emergency vehicles.

Dufferin Area Hospital and Shelburne District Hospital signed contracts with the Province of Ontario in 1968 to be the operators and service providers of Ambulance Service in the County of Dufferin.  Staff was hired and attended training at CFB Borden.

In the 1970’s the Emergency Medical Care Assistant Course (EMCA) replaced the training at Borden, and by 1975 it was offered at ten of Ontario’s community colleges. That same year the Ontario Government released the Ontario Ambulance Act which laid out the requirements for training, equipment, inspection, documentation and retention of records by all of Ontario’s more than 200 Ambulance Services. The following year Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – was developed and implemented throughout EMS services as a revolutionary technique.

The introduction of an air ambulance helicopter service in 1977, now known as Orange, saw the first response to Shelburne Hospital that winter. By the early 1980’s ambulance attendants were certified to initiate IVs, apply Military anti-shock trousers (MAST) and later administer nitrous oxide.

Chief Reid said that in the 1990’s emergency numbering in Dufferin County significantly improved response times.

In 1993, ambulance services merged with the hospitals, creating a new combined service known as “Dufferin Caledon Ambulance service.”  The next year a new ambulance station opened in Shelburne, and in 1995 it was upgraded to 24-hour onsite staff coverage.

In 1994, the Chief said, the Ontario Pre-hospital Advanced Life Support (OPALS) Study to determine the effectiveness and value of ALS would forever change EMS in Ontario.  The result was an expansion of ALS programs in 20 municipalities throughout Ontario as an integral component to health care. The decades that followed saw continued growth, change, and an increase in essential life-saving services provided by the Dufferin EMS team.

“I am so proud of our team here for the extraordinary care they provide our community every day,” said Chief Reid. “I would also like to thank our leadership at the County of Dufferin and Headwaters Health Care Centre for their continued support.”

Come celebrate 50 years with some of Dufferin County’s “finest.” Great fun for the whole family this Saturday, September 29th with a BBQ, bouncy castles, face painting, ambulance tours, games and more, starting at 11 a.m. and running until 1 p.m. at 325 Blind Line in Orangeville, just north of Hansen Blvd.

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