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Local EMS worker honoured for exemplary service

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Dan McCormick’s nearly 30 years of work in Emergency Medical Services was rewarded back in the fall when he was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal.

McCormick, the health services manager for the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board, received the award during a special ceremony in Windsor in September.

“It was quite an honour. I really appreciated it,” McCormick said last week.

“Canada’s Exemplary Service Medals recognize the men and women dedicated to preserving Canada’s public safety through long and outstanding service,” the Governor General’s website states.

In addition to EMS, Exemplary Service Medals are awarded in the fields of policing, corrections, fire services, Canadian Coast Guard, and to peace officers.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean did not award the medals personally. Rather, she sent her representative, Maj.-Gen. Richard Rohmer to the awards banquet.

“The Emergency Medical Services Exemplary Service Medal, created on July 7, 1994, recognizes professionals in the provision of pre-hospital emergency medical services to the public, who have performed their duties in an exemplary manner, characterized by good conduct, industry, and efficiency,” the website notes.

DSSAB CAO Donna Dittaro had submitted McCormick’s name for the award last year.

Each recipient must have completed a minimum of 20 years of exemplary service, including at least 10 years on the front-line as a paramedic.

But the medal is not awarded automatically upon reaching 20 years.

“You have to have done something for EMS,” McCormick noted.

“I’m just glad my colleagues thought I had done something for EMS over the years,” he laughed.

“This award should be seen as a true honour given to those who have dedicated their lives to the provision of care to their fellow citizens, as well as promotion of the profession, involvement in heir community, and strong work ethic,” said the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario.

McCormick easily met the criteria.

“I started off in 1978 with Atikokan as a volunteer [paramedic,]” he recalled.

Then in the 1990s, he worked for Ontario Hydro as a health and safety officer until the provincial government downsized. “I took over managing the Atikokan [ambulance] service for a couple years,” McCormick noted.

He continued working on the front-lines of emergency care until March, 2002, when he became the health services manager for the DSSAB.

Next year will mark 30 years in EMS for McCormick.

Thirty years ago, it was acceptable for paramedics to be volunteers, much like firefighters today.

The role of the paramedic was “scoop and run,” McCormick explained, adding it was simply their job to pick up the patient and get them to hospital as quickly as possible.

“Ambulances were doubling as hearses and for body removal,” he noted.

All that was required was some first aid training and a driver’s licence.

As time went on, though, the role of the paramedic changed to where they had to help revive or stabilize patients, or administer medication before getting to the hospital.

The first defibrillator was installed in an ambulance in Northwestern Ontario in 1996, McCormick said.

“Over the years, the certifications changed pretty drastically,” he added.

McCormick already was an instructor in CPR and first aid, was a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol, and had several years of experience when the requirements for paramedics changed.

“I had a pretty strong background,” he said. “I did all my schooling by distance ed.”

He earned his Advanced Emergency Medical Care certificate, which became mandatory in 2000 for full-time paramedics.

McCormick also is a certified instructor/trainer with St. John’s Ambulance.

While there still are some volunteer paramedics in Ontario, including a few in Kenora, they only can work a limited number of hours—and always must be accompanied by a certified paramedic.

“People don’t generally recognize how trained paramedics are,” McCormick said. “I’m quite proud of the staff we have.”

Though he enjoys his job at the DSSAB, McCormick admits he misses being out on the road.

“I miss the hands-on,” he remarked. “There was always a definite pleasure in helping somebody, always a definite result.”

Working in management, sometimes you don’t see the result of your work for many years, he noted.

“The rewards are not as quick or gratifying at times.

“I enjoy working with our paramedics,” he added. “We’re trying to make improvements to service in the district.”

The DSSAB assumed direct operating responsibility for the land ambulance service as of Jan. 1. Before, the DSSAB had contracted out the service to two operators: Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. here and Atikokan General Hospital.

“We can actually direct the work now. We can respond a lot quicker to changes,” McCormick said.

He added residents can expect further improvements to ambulance service in the district in the near future. For example, the province is changing the radio system by the end of the year to FleetNet.

“The ‘FleetNet’ radio system will provide ‘seamless’ ambulance radio communications across the province through use of common access channels,” the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said in a press release last March.

McCormick is prepared to tackle the changes to land ambulance services in the future—just as he has met the challenges of the past.

Next year, he will receive a bar with a stylized Maple Leaf to accompany the medal to mark 30 years of service.

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