By Audrey Fraizer
Who will answer the first call and, when the call is answered, will all systems be a go?
Those were the questions posed in a three-minute, 36-second video produced to mark the opening of the Urgences-santé new emergency communication center in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Staff walk through new doors and step into an unfamiliar but inviting new environment. Supervisors, dispatchers, and administrators stand poised on the floor of the center watching and waiting for the first call to come in.
At 4:18 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2016, EMD Bénédicte Lévesque-Royer answers what they were anticipating, reaching the major milestone they had anxiously anticipated.
“The call represents a historic moment,” said Vincent Brouillard, Supervisor of Operations, Urgences-santé, during a later interview. “The milestone was reached during our live transfer of operations from the old to the new center.”
Lévesque-Royer, an EMD of one year in June 2016, said she was surprised to take the first call, their first day, and when so many other people were on duty.
Even more amazing, she said, is the “beautiful” center, the camaraderie, and her good fortune at finding what she likes to do and plans to do far into the future.
“I love the callers,” Lévesque-Royer said. “They are all amazing people. They all have different ways of communicating. Some are sad, some are stressed out, and some are calm. I like their emotions and being able to help them.”
The call Lévesque-Royer answered that memorable early morning was from an 85-year-old woman who could not move because of generalized pain. Lévesque-Royer coded the call 26-A-08 and forwarded it to dispatch.
The woman will most likely never know the role she played in history.
The calltakers in the video are ecstatic, clapping hands, giving high-fives, and smiling. The video ends on a happy note: The launch was successful, without skipping a beat.
The process completed over a six-hour period resulted in the safe and reliable transfer of calltaking and dispatching operations without interruption of service to patients, Brouillard said, and was supported by a huge team effort. The organization knew ahead of time to coordinate the move and the transfer of services. The logistics of moving people and making sure the new setting met its requirements was not an easy task.
Moving was more than packing boxes. A master plan and calendars were prepared to facilitate the “live transfer,” keeping staff informed in advance about any alterations to the plan.
The move didn’t stop at the “live transfer” date. For the employees, it meant changes in radio technology, telephone console configuration, adaptation to a new environment, and revisions in their transportation and routes to and from work.
And no matter how busy or stressed, the team kept the high spirits going.
“This was a major project and a big deal for our organization,” Brouillard said. “And it’s all been good. Everyone came together to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Urgences-santé implemented the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) in 1991 and was among the Academy’s first Accredited Centers of Excellence (April 1995).
IAED Consultant Marie Leroux, RN, was a supervisor-instructor in Montréal’s EMS communications system, when, in 1997, she was inducted into the Academy’s College of Fellows for reasons including her involvement in bringing MPDS to the attention of Québec’s Ministry of Health.
The move to a larger, modern center was a huge occasion, said Leroux, who along with IAED General Counsel Brent Hawkins attended an Urgences-santé event held on May 24 during Canadian EMS Week, among an enthusiastic crowd (of “who’s who”) in Québec’s health care system.
“They are passionate about the work they do and the services they provide,” Leroux said. “The new center reflects how deeply they care about the people of Québec.”
Hawkins was impressed by the culture built around use of the MPDS.
“It’s institutionalized, part of their way of thinking in an emergency,” he said. “They are big fans of the Academy and applauded Marie and me during the formal presentation. This was great to experience on such a large scale.”
The center replaces the former space at Urgences-santé headquarters where they had been since 1993 and could no longer accommodate either an anticipated increase in personnel or changes in technology. The 5,802-square-foot interior accommodates 35 workstations (28 operational at opening) for the 105 employees scheduled on three shifts. Each day, an average of 50–55 EMDs are assisted by Interfacility Transport Agents (ITAs).
EMDs and ITAs are complemented by a team of clinical online support to paramedics, trainers responsible for quality assurance and EMD continuing medical education. Supervisor of operations on all shifts oversees all staff and a battalion chief supervises the chain of prehospital response.
Urgences-santé is the sole public organization of prehospital emergency services in the province of Québec for the islands of Montréal and Laval. Urgences-santé covers 2.4 million people, and handles an annual average of 375,000 calls, which represents more than a third of all Québec medical emergency calls.
The Urgences-santé fleet of 154 ambulances and specialized units are deployed from two centers in Montréal and one in Laval. During peak hours, there are more than 100 ambulances on the road.
Urgences-santé falls under the direction of Québec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services and is the largest of 10 communication centers serving the province.
Urgences-santé. Video Du Transfert Des Operation CCS. 2016; Feb. 29. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkNcRxBRMb8.
Urgences-santé Québec. www.urgences-sante.qc.ca (accessed July 27, 2016).