United Hatzalah ambucycle in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s United Hatzalah (Rescue Squad) founder Eli Beer spoke to a crowd in Montreal yesterday and was invited to visit Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services. The United Hatzalah is an incredible program, all volunteer driven, with a singular focus on rapid, first-response to anyone in need. Its mission and purpose is very similar to that of Cote Saint-Luc. Despite difference in size and sophistication, Beer will undoubtedly find many similarities between his group and the outstanding, all-volunteer CSL EMS. Indeed, we have much that we can learn from Beer. Here are 4 key points we should explore.

EMS volunteers (Class of 2013)

#1 Volunteers

Despite CSL’s speed in responding to its 3000 medical emergencies each year, a three-minute average response time is excellent but we should always look for ways to cut seconds when lives are at stake. I have proposed that local, off-duty-EMS volunteers be alerted of life-threatening calls, and equipped, to respond when in close proximity.

What’s more, with an auxiliary force of 80 additional members of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol, some of them (say 20) could be trained at a basic first-responder level. They too are already available, on and off duty, and nearby.

And greater adoption of citizen CPR is crucial.

#2 Transportation

CSL EMS is not an ambulance service. It is a first-responder service. As such, it must rapidly access those calling 911. It should have a fleet of smaller, faster vehicles – not heavy and very expensive ambulances. To complement its lighter, quicker vehicles, a single ambulance would suffice for full protection from the outside elements during severe weather or at large events.

Hatzalah has a fleet of scooters to get around its congested urban centres. CSL already has a fleet of electric scooters for vCOP. Why not integrate these resources, with qualified members, for quicker response when they’re already on the road or when EMS is unavailable?

vCOP patrols the park on electric scooter (Canada Day 2017)

#3 Technology

Hatzalah has uses Israeli technology pushed out via an app for its members. Such technology is now widely accessible to anyone on their mobile devices. CSL should embrace this technology by outfitting all of its EMS and qualified vCOP members so that the closest crews can respond even faster to life-threatening emergencies while EMS and Urgences Santé ambulance are en route. Again, these extra responders are even more critical when EMS first-responders are tied up on other calls and unable to respond to a life-threatening emergency.

#4 Policy

CSL operates under rules and regulations established by higher levels of authority. These rules need to be updated to take into account the local realities of CSL EMS volunteers. Medical responders ought to be granted tax credits toward their training and equipment expenses. Also, the SAAQ has developed regulations in the last few years that allow volunteer firefighters unique privileges in responding to (medical) emergencies in their own vehicles. Despite numerous evidence-based presentations by CSL, the Quebec automobile insurance board refuses to recognize the unique nature of CSL EMS volunteers, who are better trained to deal with medical calls than firefighters. Updating policies and removing bureaucratic obstacles will help save even more lives.


There is no doubt that Cote Saint-Luc is a leader in community-based emergency medical services. Its program is one-of-a-kind in Quebec and it is a proven, life-saving organization. Adopting new ways of expanding its resources, exploring new rapid-response vehicles , embracing mobile technology and updating policies will bring this organization to a whole new level.



Source: MikeCohen.ca: Eli Beer: founder of Israel rescue organization shares his story in Montreal talk