To determine if utilizing a single paramedic crew configuration is safe for transporting low acuity patients requiring only a primary care paramedic (PCP) level of care in Air Ambulances.
We studied single-PCP transports of low acuity patients done by contract air ambulance carriers, organized by Ornge (Ontario's Air Ambulance Service) for one year. We only included interfacility transports. We excluded all scene calls, and all Code 4 (emergent) calls. Our primary outcome was clinical deterioration during transport. We then asked a panel to analyze each case of deterioration to determine if a dual-PCP configuration might have reasonably prevented the deterioration or have better treated the deterioration, compared to a single-PCP configuration.
In one year, contract carriers moved 3264 patients, who met inclusion criteria. 85% were from Northern Ontario. There were 21 cases of medical deterioration (0.6%±0.26%). Paper charts were found for 20 of these cases. Most were self-limited cases of pain or nausea. A small number of cases (n=5) were cardiorespiratory decompensation. There was 100% consensus amongst the panel that all cases of clinical deterioration were not related to team size. There was also 100% consensus that a dual-PCP team would not have been better able to deal with the deterioration, compared to a single-PCP crew.
We found that using a single-PCP configuration for transporting low acuity patients is safe. This finding is particularly important for rural areas where air ambulance is the only means for accessibility to care and where staffing issues are magnified.