The Department of Community Services has officially opened a new EMS station beside Whitehorse General Hospital.
The station has been up and running for about a month now but staff were on hand on Thursday to show it off.
The new location, on Hospital Road, replaces the old building just down the street. That one is scheduled to be knocked down this month after more than 25 years of service.
Minister Brad Cathers was at the event in the place of Community Services Minister Currie Dixon, who is in Greenland for the Arctic Winter Games.
Cathers said the old EMS station had to be knocked down to make room for the expansion of the Whitehorse General Hospital that’s being worked on this summer. “With the emergency room expansion, the additional space, it would have created too much of a pinch point for traffic from the old station,” he said.
For decades the Riverdale location was Whitehorse’s only ambulance station, until a second new facility opened in 2013 at the top of Two Mile Hill.
Yukon EMS responded to more than 5,000 ground ambulance calls in 2015, along with 809 medevac calls.
Along with a new kitchen and lounge area for staff who man the stations on 24-hour shifts, the new station has upgraded technology in its emergency response coordination centre.
That’s where staff dispatch ambulances. It’s also where medevac trips, both inside the territory and to the South, are coordinated.
At the old location, EMS dispatchers worked out of a room in the centre of the building surrounded by glass. It was dubbed “the fishbowl,” said Randy Diceman, the territory’s supervisor of EMS communications.
The new room has sound-proof walls and ergonomic desks that move up and down so that dispatchers can sit or stand while they work.
Until last year, when new computer systems were installed, staff were still using a pen and paper to gather the basic information about an emergency before sending an ambulance, Diceman said.
Along with doing away with the paper, the updated technology allows the Whitehorse centre to connect with all of the community ambulances across the territory.
Once 911 is rolled out across the Yukon each community will be responsible for dispatching its own ambulances, but having everyone linked together will help with coordination and oversight, Diceman said.
“We’ve come a very long way in a very short amount of time,” he said.
“For my staff, they’re very happy to be in a new environment using state-of-the-art equipment. It just makes it easier to provide a higher level of service to the citizens of Yukon.”
The new building cost $2.3 million and came in on budget, Cathers said.
There are 23 ambulances in the Yukon’s fleet. Two new ones were purchased as part of the 2015-16 fiscal year.
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