Peterborough Base: 10 years in Operation
November 15, 2018
15 November, 2018
Learn more about our Peterborough Critical Care Land Ambulance Base, celebrating 10 years of exceptional service.
Ornge’s Peterborough land base is the southern tip of Ornge’s triangle of bases - Sudbury to the Northwest and Ottawa to the Northeast. In between those three bases is a vast area of small rural towns serviced by widely dispersed and dedicated local paramedic services. Ornge’s land paramedics are tasked with performing mainly critical care transports from local hospitals south to larger tertiary healthcare facilities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
On a standard day at the Ornge Peterborough base, there will typically be two paramedics, an educator and the Base Manager, Chuck Sheppard. Chuck hails from Newfoundland originally which speaks to his warm, straightforward demeanor. Ornge Base Managers tend to come from either a medical or aviation background. In Chuck’s case, he spent years managing commercial vehicle fleets and then spent several years in the Middle East assisting with the day to day helicopter base operations on contract for the United States Military. He’s a people person and understands the mechanics of good team dynamics and leadership. Chuck also manages Ornge’s Mississauga-based GTA land base (which consists of one paediatric team and one critical care team), and splits his time between the two as needed.
“The land bases in Peterborough and Mississauga are among the most senior,” says Sheppard. “The paramedics at these locations have among the most experience in the organization.”
Along with managing the two southern Ontario land bases, Chuck also manages Ornge’s entire fleet of land ambulances, many of which are stationed at other larger Ornge bases to provide backup to the aircraft if they are unavailable due to weather or maintenance. He often travels to northern bases like Thunder Bay, Timmins and Sioux Lookout to perform audits and checks of all the vehicles. Suffice to say, he spends a lot of time on the road.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
The sound of the front door latch opening draws Chuck and me from our conversation. Paramedics Frederick Shaefer and Darryl Rickard greet us as they come into the common area to begin their start-of-shift routines. Coffee, breakfast, protein shakes and small talk about the weekend. Darryl is quiet and takes his coffee into the adjacent office while Frederick goes on to tell me he’s a part-time weekend Advanced Care Paramedic at the Peterborough base. He lives in Barrie and works full time with Toronto Paramedic Services. Seems everyone at this base spends a lot of time in their car.
Moments later, the phone rings. It’s a call from the Operations Control Centre at Head Office in Mississauga arranging a pediatric transport from Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The little one is on a ventilator and needs the critical care provided by Ornge paramedics during transport.
Darryl and Frederick zip up their uniforms (all Ornge paramedics wear flight suits) and prepare the ambulance. The Ornge base is quite literally a stone’s-throw from PRHC. Within 10 minutes of receiving the call, the paramedics and the ambulance are gone and the base is quiet and dark again. Chuck moves to his office to tend to administrative details for the week as Chris Gabourie, the Peterborough-based Paramedic Educator, strolls into the building. Chris was a paramedic for 11 years in Ottawa before coming to Ornge. He’s very candid about how his experience working in a busy urban setting as a paramedic helps him to identify with the paramedics he trains now. He’s friendly and engaging, which is a common trait among the Ornge staff across all departments.
A few hours go by as we exchange stories and thoughts on the pre-hospital medical setting in which Ornge plays such a significant role. Continuing Medical Education upholds the standard of care that Ornge paramedics provide every time they interact with a patient. All paramedics employed with Ornge are mandated to participate in at least 72 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) each year. Educators like Chris have years of practical, skills-based experience on land or in the air, or both. In southern Ontario, Head Office in Mississauga is the hub of the CME and in the North, its Thunder Bay. Chris lives in Peterborough, but his title means he is also quite transient from the base. The shelves in his office are stacked with medical texts and flashcards with everything from emergent advanced paediatric trauma care to basic CPR.
They tell me there are rarely more than two people in the building for any length of time. The paramedics are almost always out servicing the hospitals in the surrounding area and Chuck finds himself in his vehicle more often than not. The kitchen is always clean and there’s a calm atmosphere in the quiet hallways.
When my time in Peterborough comes to an end, I gather my things and leave quietly so as not to disturb the tranquility; the TV in the rec room on a muted 24-hour news cycle plays back the headlines of the day to nobody. Ornge paramedics are tireless in their service to their communities. When the base is quiet, it means good work is being done.
Courtney Kraik is a primary care paramedic student at Georgian College and was a communications intern at Ornge. In this series, she offers a look inside Ornge operations at bases across the province