SAULT STE. MARIE -- The lack of emergency medical services north of Sault Ste. Marie was first discussed 10 years ago. Planning began in 2018 to figure out how to offer quicker medical service to people in that area.

This year, on Canada Day, a paramedic was finally stationed in Goulais River, 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie.

"We now have this paramedic response unit (PRU) here stationed in the Goulais area for what we call the 'Sault North,'" said Robert Rushworth, Chief of Paramedic Services in Sault Ste. Marie. "It serves Searchmont, Batchawana, Hayden, Aweres, with a quicker response time."

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., a paramedic is stationed at the volunteer fire and rescue hall located on Old Highway 17 Road.

"This is the result of significant planning and effort and will significantly improve EMS coverage in our rural service area between Sault Ste. Marie and Montreal River," said social services board chair Luke Dufour.

When a call comes in, the Goulais River paramedic will head to the scene. At the same time, an ambulance will be dispatched from the Sault.

On average, the PRU is first on the scene and is between 10 to 17 minutes faster than the ambulance coming from Sault Ste. Marie. The paramedic will be able to assess the situation and start medical attention. When the ambulance arrives, the crew is able to load up the patient right away and take them to the hospital, if needed.

Since July 1, paramedics have responded to 10 calls.

Shane MacFarlane was the first emergency responder on the scene for one of them.

"I arrived on scene just prior to the transporting crew and I was able to get in a COVID screening and do a primary assessment and kinda get a general idea of what was going on with the situation before the arriving crew arrived," said MacFarlane. “So I turn over a report to them and they were able to turn over the transport time that much quicker."

MacFarlane added that seconds count in medical situations, so having a paramedic arrive before the ambulance is crucial.

Two new full-time jobs have been created as a result of the PRU being opened.  

"The PRU will add support to the many volunteer first responders who have served the rural areas for decades across the district," said the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board in a news release. "The PRU will be dispatched by the Central Ambulance Communications Centre and the current schedule will see the PRU working seven days a week, 12 hours a day."