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6 - PRAIRIE POST - SPECIAL AREAS - June 2013 DEMSA organization has evolved over the years BY ROSE SANCHEZ — rsanchez@prairiepost.com


Since 1996, the Dryland Emergency Medical Services Association (DEMSA) has been operating in the Hanna area, but this could be the year those operations cease. Unique in the province,DEMSA volunteers are emergency medical responders who are registered members of the Alberta College of Paramedics. This means they can carry all of the same medical equipment and have the advantage of being able to respond in rural areas more quickly than ambulance services so volunteers act as first responders, explains Betty Landis, a director with the volunteer group. Right now, there are 10 trained responders, mainly in the rural area.A few live in Hanna and help cover events, but there have been as many as 22 people involved in DEMSA. “It’s the nature of the business,” says Landis about


volunteer numbers. “Some find the commitment to be too much and others find the cost is prohibitive to them.” Fees to belong to the governing body have increased and there are a lot of expectations of volunteers who use their own vehicles to respond. Still, the organization


tries to pay for courses as well as writing the provincial exams. Before Alberta Health Services (AHS) took over from hospital boards,when an ambulance was dispatched, those working would have a list of rural responders to phone.Those volunteers could then reach the victim much more quickly and provide medical care until the ambulance arrived.This is still how it is being done, but doesn’t work quite as well under the new AHS services model.


Another challenge for DEMSA is the fact the Alberta


College of Paramedics is reviewing competency levels of those under its association. If the potential changes are approved, it would mean big changes for DEMSA. “This is a transition year.We’re not sure what’s going


to happen. Alberta Health Services is trying to figure out how to work in rural responders,” explains Landis. “We’re asking lots of questions, but we haven’t gotten the answers.” What makes DEMSA so unique in the province is


volunteers have a fully-equipped trauma bag with them including oxygen, spinal precaution gear, bandages and splints.The association has registered members and the


group has charitable status as a standalone entity. “They are fully trained in dealing with a trauma emergency and medical emergency,” says Landis. The association has also fundraised for and purchased some automatic defibrillators for their use. With an area the size of the former Hanna Ambulance Society,DEMSA volunteers are crucial to covering the 12,000 square miles. At the outer limits, it takes an ambulance at least an hour to arrive to help a trauma victim.


Landis is hopeful Alberta Health Services personnel will be able to come up with a workable plan for first responders so they are used still and efficiently. There also needs to be work done on some kind of first


responder dispatch system. Landis is thankful for the support the group has


received so far, especially from Special Areas, but she is hopeful the good work that has been done can continue, especially in the rural areas. “If you have a wreck on the highway in rural Alberta,


you could be there for quite awhile before anyone even finds you,” she adds,as to why first responders can be so important.


Hanna officials come together to help create a caring community BY ROSE SANCHEZ — rsanchez@prairiepost.com


An anti-bullying bylaw was just the first step of many to be taken in the Town of Hanna to try to address bullying concerns in the community. The work is continuing through the Safe Communities Committee.A presentation by youth from J.C.Charyk School at a June 10 public meeting was another opportunity to raise the issue and take a stand against bullying in the community. “The group said we need discussion at a community


level,” explains Gwen Snell, director of community services for the Town of Hanna. “The school also wanted the message out that enough is enough. We want people to pledge that we’re not going to put up with (bullying).” The community-wide focus on bullying came about in


the fall of 2012 when Prairie Land Regional Division officials expressed concern about bullying. At that time,


the Safe Communities Committee was asked to undertake a survey of students, parents and staff at J.C.Charyk School. “Some results were disturbing and some were pretty


normal,” explains Snell, about that survey. “We know we’re not the only community struggling with these issues.” The survey showed that 41 per cent of students thought that bullying was a normal part of being a child and 77 per cent had seen or heard someone be bullied in the four weeks prior to the survey being done. The survey also showed a disconnect between parents and students as 65 per cent of parents who responded said their child had never been bullied, even though 41 per cent of students think it’s normal. Community members have been working to continue


to have open dialogues about bullying, its effects and why it needs to stop.


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“These are ongoing, intentional, deliberate discussions about improving our community,” adds Snell. “What is the issue, how do we address it and how do we change behaviours.” Many partners have come on board including the


Town, schools, mental health agencies,Project Reach, and Hanna FCSS. “Everyone is working together to make our community better.” Snell points out bullying isn’t just a problem with


children, but also adults because young people model what they see. “This is a social issue.We have to create awareness and the community is making real and conscious steps towards improvements.This isn’t the end game just like the bullying bylaw wasn’t the end game,” says Snell. “Who knows what comes next, but this is one step on the ladder.When you work collaboratively, you can achieve positive results in the community.”


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