Stew Slater, St. Marys Journal Argus
People experiencing chest pains are advised to make their own decision about whether to dial 911 for an ambulance or to make their own way to a nearby emergency department.
This advice was given at a recent meeting in St. Marys where information about the county’s new chest pain protocol was shared with the public.
Perth County EMS paramedics now have the training and equipment necessary to conduct a test to determine whether a patient is experiencing a particular type of heart attack — known as an “acute ST elevation myocardical infarction” (STEMI).
The paramedics communicate the results from the test to cardiologists in the London or Kitchener hospitals and will receive immediate instruction about whether or not the patient has experienced a STEMI heart attack.
Dr. Mike Lewell, an emergency doctor at London Health Sciences Centre who also serves as one of the directors on a group that creates the protocol for land ambulance services in Southwestern Ontario, explained STEMI heart attacks are unique in that, if a patient can receive a specialized treatment – not available at hospitals in Stratford, St. Marys or Listowel – within a short period of time, the chances of the patient dying drops from 8.9 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
Lewell added that, even prior to the implementation of this protocol, a significant number of heart attack sufferers in the area would have ended up being transported to London after first visiting the local emergency department. But ironically, doctors treating anyone suffering a STEMI attack were quite possibly advised that there was no point sending them to London for the specialized treatment, since too much time had passed since the initial attack.
He clarified, however, that STEMI attacks are not common – estimating there would be “about 10” per year in the area.
Lewell said the STEMI test won’t be done on everybody who thinks they might be having a heart attack, and advised people that if they do experience pain in their chest to make their own decision about whether to go to the hospital or call for an ambulance.
Perth County EMS director, Linda Rockwood, who was also in attendance, added there is no charge for ambulance service if paramedics arrive but then decide not to transport the person to hospital.
The new protocol is a joint partnership between the Perth County EMS, the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, Listowel Memorial Hospital, and hospitals in Kitchener and London.