EMS Profile: Andrew Moffat
What's your current position?I am finally retired - after a series of professions; military, animal genetics, rancher and EMS. Now my days are filled with golf, authoring books and enjoying great grandchildren.
When did your first job commence as an EMS professional?In 1979. For the first three months I was an advanced first aider, then an EMT and finally, in later years, an EMT-P.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in EMS? We were ranching in the West Country in Alberta where there were neither doctors nor clinics. At that time the north-south Highway 22 had not been completed, so access to both Sundre and Rocky Mountain House hospitals was restricted most of the year. Our nearest hospital and doctors were in Innisfail - approximately 65 kilometres away. One Saturday evening at a legion dance a comrade dropped with a heart attack and there weren't even first aiders to help him. That is when I decided to start an ambulance service. That was not easy as no one outside of the community was prepared to give advice or assistance - and most certainly not for free! (I was given ‘advisory' quotes in the thousands of dollars!)
Even the minister of hospitals stated in writing that we did not need a service as the Alberta Air Ambulance (which did not exist at that time) was the finest in Canada and served our area well! St. John Ambulance said they would train eight of our volunteers for $2,800 and take about 11 months to run the courses. When I threatened to go on television and express my views of their position, they recanted and ran the first aid and CPR courses within 10 days and only charged $225.
Who was the biggest inspiration to you when you were first starting in EMS?Bill Coghill, without question. Bill was managing Edmonton at the time, but he went out of his way to help in acquiring excellent equipment and vehicles and in giving sound advice. On the training and ethical side, Ron McManus was a solid inspiration throughout our development.
Please provide a brief description of your career.Following high school I had my commission as a Captain in the Militia. In 1946 I joined the Regular Army as a Gunner (high class Private!) in the Artillery. About 18 months later I was selected to attend the Naval College at Royal Roads - the first person from the Army Ranks to be chosen. I then attended the Royal Military College and on graduation I married and left from my honeymoon to spend 13 months in the Korean War.
In my 32 years of service I had excellent postings throughout Canada, Germany, Italy and Korea. My final posting was as CO of Base Calgary. I retired from Calgary and bought a small ranch west of Caroline, Alberta where we conducted a sheep genetics program as a follow-on program run by a Sundre-area family.
After starting the ambulance service and running it as a teaching/volunteer service, there was not time to continue the ranching operation, so we concentrated on the ambulance service, dedicating about 90 hours each week! On my 77th birthday I decided it was time to let others pick up teenagers from the roadside, and retired to Red Deer.
My wife Daphne, daughter Kathleen, and son Chris all became EMTs as well. I now have 19 books in print, and I hope time to write many more. Themes range from historical fiction, to mystery, to love stories. What is your most memorable situation while on the job? There are a great many, including the Pine Lake Tornado. The most satisfying was probably seeing to the delivery of five-week premature breech twins - and then seeing them on their sixth birthdays when they entered Grade 1.
What's the biggest challenge facing EMS today?EMS personnel are not employed to their capacity! There should be openings in hospitals and clinics. We are short of RNs and yet ignore the skills and education of paramedics. Both EMTs and EMT-Ps have the capability for skills and practices well beyond those currently permitted in most provinces. Together with this, nation-wide standards and portability are, in the long run, imperative. Had we run a long-term PR program, as fire has done, we - and the public - would be in an infinitely better position today.
If you could change just one thing in EMS, what would that be?False pride! Our EMS personnel are good; the best in the world. They do not need to flaunt their skills before the public and certainly not to each other. As a national team we are the best there is - as a fractured, competitive bunch of groups we only diminish ourselves and reduce our public image (including before our medical counterparts), We are in every sense a "profession" but we still have far too many personnel who fail to act and perform as such. A national medal and ribbon for communication personnel should be created. Most would not qualify for the EMS ESM because they have not served for 10 years in a capacity of risk. This is a huge oversight.
What's your favourite tool/technology available to EMS professionals and why?The ‘needle' - it is through the catheter that we exercise most impact on our patients' survivability. Other equipments may give us guidance or allow us contact with senior advisors, but in the final analysis it is most often the administration of a life saving fluid or drug that really matters.
What does the future of EMS look like?Our future is, regrettably, in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians who are neither medically knowledgeable, nor interested in acting for the long run - beyond the immediate emergency/election - solutions.
Until we can convince politicians, bureaucrats and emergency physicians to do extensive ride-alongs, there will never be an adequate knowledge base for our full development.
What's the funniest thing you've witnessed in EMS?The most humorous was stopping on the highway at 10 a.m. to help a chap doing CPR on a lady by the ditch - only to find they were not doing CPR!
What do you do when you're not working?Play 18 holes of golf three times a week. Write books on a wide range of subjects. Write nasty letters to the editor and my MP. Travel to visit family - four children, 20 grandchildren and five great grandchildren (four more in the offing!).
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