Living in any rural community in Canada has its inherent health risks by virtue of isolation, high risk occupations, harsh climate, difficult geography and distance and time to emergency facilities. Regrettably there are also occasional issues with the variability of care provided in both the prehospital and emergency department sectors.
In our view Canada has yet to embrace its rurality with respect to the delivery of emergency care. Twenty percent of Canadians choose to live in rural communities and yet they are consistently exposed to the risk of uncertain quality of care when struck by a medical emergency or injury.
Rural paramedics are often confined to basic life saving skills because of perceived problems with skill retention in low call volume communities. Air ambulance services are a patch work maze of availability, response times and geographic coverage. Rural emergency departments often are inadequately staffed and technologically unsupported.
It is time that we guarantee all Canadians the right to timely access to quality emergency care. Emergency departments need to be standardized, characterized and regionalized. Rural paramedics need enhanced, not less, skills training and air ambulance accessibility needs to be a given, not a faint hope.
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians