Fire fighters in a small municipality near Brockville will not be carrying naloxone kits

Fire fighters in a small municipality near Brockville will not be carrying naloxone kits
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Link to article: Fire fighters in a small municipality near Brockville will not be carrying naloxone kits

A municipality near Brockville will not be carrying potential life-saving Naloxone kits until they have clear answers regarding the potential liabilities.

The Fire Chief in Elizabethtown-Kitley is opting out of participating in Ontario’s naloxone program, a provincial initiative to provide two free kits to each fire vehicle.

Chief Jim Donovan says his firefighters are volunteers that are trained at the First Responder (40 hours) level. In case of emergency, they are expected to provide support until paramedics can attend the patient.

Donovan would rather leave it to the paramedics to administer the naloxone. 

“We’re trained for the ABCs - which is Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. So when we arrive we’re doing those primaries before we administer the drug… by the time we do our primary assessment, paramedics are right behind us,” Donovan said.

In a reporter given to council Monday, Donovan outlined the emotional stress the firefighters could face if they respond to a call for multiple overdoses, and do not have enough Naloxone kits for all patients.

“Traditionally the Fire Service sends one vehicle to a first response which means only two naloxone kits will be available,” Donovan wrote.

“If there are multiple overdoses as suggested by the Health Unit, the onus will rest on the Township’s first responders to determine who gets the shot and who does not. This will result in not only legal issues but will also affect the first responder’s emotional wellbeing as they will be forced to choose.”

Donovan also brought up the Fire Fighters Act, which he says was written in the 1970s, and does not cover administering naloxone. 

He says there may be impacts regarding the cost of insurance as fire fighters are not considered ‘good Samaritans’ when responding, so malpractice insurance would be required if this program is adopted.

Aside from liability, Donovan wonders how the municipality will cover the cost if the government pulls funding later on.

“We’ve been caught before on programs where money has been withdrawn,” Donovan said.

The Mayor and councillors are supporting Donovan’s decision.

Mayor Jim Pickard says there are “too many unanswered questions about the legislation.” There are concerns from council regarding insurance as well.

Council is open to revisiting the decision when they have more information, or notice a clear need.

In 2017, there were 14 overdose calls in Leeds and Grenville. Five of those calls were responded to with local fire services, according to the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville Emergency Services.

Donovan says none of those were for Elizabethtown-Kitley.

At a council meeting on Monday, Township Fire Service Officers unanimously recommended that the township not participate in the Ontario Naloxone Program at this time. 

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