Medical Priority Dispatch System

Starting on April 10, 2024, the Emergency Services of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell will use the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS).

This tool is designed to help dispatchers of the Ottawa Central Ambulance Communications Centre better understand the emergency level of a patient and triage them accordingly. Consequently, when a dispatcher receives a 9-1-1 call, the system matches available paramedic resources to a person’s medical condition, ensuring that patients in life-threatening situations receive immediate care.

With the Medical Priority Dispatch System, Prescott and Russell residents calling 9-1-1 can expect greater security and efficiency.

Better Understanding the New System

Developed in the 1970s, it is a tried-and-tested technology that continues to be the subject of ongoing testing, development, and quality assurance measures. In fact, this dispatch system is already in use in many communities around the world. In Ontario, regions such as Kenora, Toronto, and Peel have also successfully implemented the new dispatch system.

The Medical Priority Dispatch System enables dispatchers to better assess the medical situations of patients and prioritize calls that are truly urgent. As a result, ambulances are dispatched less quickly to situations that are considered non-urgent. This does not mean that these patients will not receive care, but rather that a person in critical danger will receive care more quickly, since paramedical resources will be available.

The Medical Priority Dispatch System will be deployed at the same time in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and the City of Ottawa. The use of this new system is one of the strategies of Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care of the Government of Ontario, a vision for patient-centred care.

Assessing the Degree of Emergency of a Medical Situation

Dispatchers and paramedics work together to ensure efficient management of 9-1-1 calls. The new Medical Priority Dispatch System classifies medical situations according to several criteria. To better help patients and send them the right resources, dispatchers will ask more questions to gather all the necessary information. Missing or insufficient information can lead to poor call prioritization, so patients should provide all the details they consider important.

Here are some examples of medical situations considered potentially life-threatening (non-exhaustive list):

  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking, dizziness;
  • Persistent chest pain;
  • Sudden breathing difficulties or shortness of breath;
  • Bone fractures;
  • Uncontrolled bleeding;
  • Sudden severe headaches or blurred vision;
  • Sudden weakness, numbness or tingling of the face, arm, or leg.

Here are some examples of medical situations considered non-urgent (non-exhaustive list):

  • Sprains;
  • Skin infections;
  • Colds or coughs;
  • Mild burns;
  • Chronic symptoms;
  • Back pain;
  • Stomach aches;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Sunburns;
  • Minor abrasions;
  • Seasonal allergies.

If a medical situation is assessed as a non-emergency, while the patient is waiting for an ambulance, they will receive follow-up calls to confirm that the situation has not deteriorated. If the patient’s medical situation changes, they can call 9-1-1 at any time and communicate the changes to the dispatcher. The dispatcher will reassess the situation and the paramedical resources available. Therefore, updates are very important.

Using Other Resources Available in the Community

The primary objective of the Emergency Services of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell is to provide emergency medical response to all residents in their service area. Ambulances are deployed from four stations located in Embrun, Hawkesbury, Plantagenet, and Rockland. There are also five waiting stations located in Alfred, Bourget, Casselman, Vankleek Hill, and St-Isidore.

The Medical Priority Dispatch System classifies emergencies more accurately. When a person experiences a medical situation that is not urgent, they are encouraged to use other resources available in the community to guide them, for example:

  • Talk to a Pharmacist;
  • Call 211 or visit its website;
  • Call 811 to talk to a Registered Nurse or visit its website;
  • Book an appointment with a Family Doctor or visit a medical clinic.

This will enable the Emergency Services of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell to respond to life-threatening calls more quickly.

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