Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The North Queens Board of Trade (NQBT) is re-igniting the conversation about having an Emergency Health Services (EHS) base in Caledonia.
"I know this has been tried several times, the latest maybe 10 to 15 years ago. But in light of COVID-19 it surfaced again, because the fire department was not allowed to respond to calls," said Gil Johnson, chair of the NQBT.
Health protocols arising from the pandemic prevented volunteer fire fighters from responding to incidents. However, Chris Wolfe, the chief of the North Queens Fire Department, said the department is receiving training and special equipment and its volunteers will soon be able to respond to incidents again.
Meanwhile, he suggested, it's been tough to stand down while others are in distress, especially when one is used to helping.
"All the firefighters feel the same way. We felt bad, especially at first, but we understand that we had to follow the protocols."
Johnson is also a councillor for the Region of Queens Municipality and a trustee for the Queens General Hospital Foundation.
He said it's a 40 to 45 minute wait for an ambulance to get to Caledonia from Liverpool, if one is available at that location, and that's not good enough.
"It would cut that time in half if we had a satellite station here."
The area includes three long-term care facilities, Kejimkujik National Park and two schools.
Johnson said they are in the initial stages of establishing an EHS branch. The NQBT has posted a petition on Facebook to see if the area residents are in favour of the project. As of October 1, 381 signatures were recorded.
From there, Johnson said the NQBT will sit down and look at what they can learn from past attempts, figure out what is needed to move forward, then gauge the proper timing to take it forward to the government.
The community currently has a medical clinic with a doctor and a nurse practitioner, however, it's not set up to handle emergencies.
Johnson also noted that he sees ambulances in Caledonia almost every day, which are there to transport people to Liverpool for appointments to deal with procedures such as dialysis, and blood work.
"That's another thing. Once I got into checking into the EHS project, it got a whole lot bigger on just how our ambulance services are taxed with these things," he said. "Right now, I'm wondering if there can be an alternative, like how much can transit do, do these folks have to be in a bed, or can they sit up in a vehicle to be transported?"
According to Johnson, attempting to get an EHS base fits "hand in glove" with the Gateway to Kejimkujik project that the NQBT has been working on. The project hopes to identify areas in Caledonia that need to be worked on to make it a hub of North Queens and the national park.