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FIREFIGHTERS: WE AREN'T REPLACING PARAMEDICS
Pictured right: Sub-Officer Kevin Jeffrey and Station Officer Steve Holland
FIREFIGHTERS are trying to reassure a community worried they are replacing paramedics in the town. Retained officers at Chipping Norton's fire station in Burford Road say misunderstandings about the assistance they give the ambulance service is leading to negative feedback. All but two of the 20strong team there trained as community first responders in February last year as part of a national Government initiative. Assistant Divisional Officer Ashley Gurr said: "This was brought in because the ambulance service realised you could save an awful lot of heart attack victims with an early response. "We carry out initial life-saving actions while the patient is waiting for the ambulance to turn up But this is in addition to ambulance services in the town, not instead of." Category A' calls, the most serious, need to be responded to in eight minutes and the fire station is enabling Oxfordshire Ambulance Trust to meet this target by carrying defibrillators and first aid kits and being trained in resuscitation. If they have a spare appliance at the time of a cardiac emergency they are sent out. Trust spokesman Helen Robinson said: "An ambulance with a paramedic crew is dispatched at the same and they often arrive within a minute or so of them beginning treatment - but that first minute or so can mean the difference between life. and death in certain patients. These volunteers are a valuable asset to the trust - but more importantly to the health and well-being of the communities in which they work" Chipping Norton's ambulance station was closed about two years ago and put up for sale at the end of last year once officials were confident the ambulance standby point in the fire station was working properly. Mr Gurr said: "I understand how people here feel because they have lost their ambulance station but we are just there to give that first bit of first aid." Firefighters are sent on first aid refresher courses every six months and are equipped with resuscitation equipment.
WOMAN ALIVE TODAY - THANKS TO FIRE CREWS
FIREFIGHTERS in Chipping Norton have told the Banbury Guardian they feel happy in their role as responders to medical emergencies and the job is not that different to what they face as firemen anyway. Sub-officer Kevin Jeffrey said: "When I first started doing it people would think they ordered the wrong thing when a fire engine turned up.'''But it's something people are becoming more aware of and getting used to." Station Officer Steve Holland added: "It's in a firefighter's nature to help people so it was something that guys here wanted to do. The training was strict and if you don't score 98 per cent you don't pass." Support for the scheme has been echoed by some residents in the town. Ernie Beadle of Cotswold Crescent, Chipping Norton says it is down to medical supplies carried by the Fireefighters that his daughter Gemma is alive today. Last November she was involved in a car crash in Churchill Road. Mr Beadle said: "I owe so much to the fire crews. If it wasn't for them she wouldn't be here. It didn't take them long to arrive and they got her out with suction equipment, put her on oxygen and waited for the air ambulance to arrive." The 21-year-old has suffered brain damage as a result of the crash. They are properly trained and I wouldn't worry if they came out to me," he added. How often the firefighters are called out varies but between April and December last year Chipping Norton were called on in 97 emergencies.
AMBULANCE SERVICE STILL VITAL TO US
Paul Fisher of West End suffered a heart attack last year and was dismayed when a fire. engine turned up. Mr Fisher said: "Firemen are a cheap substitute. That is not a criticism of them but the. ambulance service is avoiding dealing with the real issue of paramedics being promised in eight minutes. It took three quarters of an hour for an ambulance to arrive to me and it had to come from the other side of Oxford. Firemen could do nothing because, although I was suffering a heart attack,I was conscious. The longer an ambulance takes to get to you the more damage is being done to the heart. Gerry Alcock of West Street had his life saved by paramedic crews when he suffered an aneurism in 2004. He says that although firefighters are doing a great job, they should not be the ones responding to medical emergencies. "Goodness knows what a fireman would have made of my condition," he said "I have absolutely no doubt that the only reason I was delivered to hospital in an operable state was due to the fantastic professionalism and care of the paramedic who arrived at my home to find me doubled up in agony. Firemen are doing all they can but my worry is that we must stay committed to getting the real expert - the paramedic to an emergency really fast."