Ambulances not likely to install oxygen test kits – BCAS

The B.C. Ambulance Service will review but not likely implement a coroner’s jury recommendation to install oxygen test kits in all ambulances.

One of the 15 recommendations a jury made in the coroner’s inquest into the mushroom farm deaths of three workers was for paramedics to have access to an oxygen sensor, so they can test the air quality before entering confined spaces to help injured people.

In the 2008 Langley mushroom composting farm tragedy, paramedics were first on the scene. Three workers had succumbed to toxic gases released in a brown water shed where they were working.

Two other workers went in to help and suffered severe brain damage and are permanently injured from inhaling the toxic gas.

Following their training procedures and protocols, paramedics knew it was unsafe to try and rescue any of the men.

“The Langley mushroom farm incident was a tragic event and our thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones,” said BCAS spokesperson Kelsie Carwithen.

The reason BCAS does not equip its ambulances with atmospheric test kits is the primary role of a paramedic is patient care, not testing and being the judge of hazardous conditions, said Carwithen.

“Paramedics are not trained or equipped to enter locations that involve hazardous conditions. In the case of the Langley mushroom farm incident, paramedics assessed the confined space with assistance from a BCAS technical advisor (similar to all calls involving hazardous conditions). Paramedics were then advised then not to enter the location,” said Carwithen.

In incidents that do involve hazardous conditions, there are processes and procedures that ensure paramedics are able to provide high-quality patient care in a safe environment.  When BCAS responds to calls where the scene is not safe, it relies on police, fire and its own technical advisors to determine when the scene is safe for paramedics to enter and treat patients.

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