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UOSERT members Abbey Horsfall (left), Jessica Gill, Peter Kerrivan and Emily Mrozinski. Photo: Jacklyn McRae-Sadik

Student-lead response team providing 24-hour assistance

The University of Ottawa Student Emergency Response Team (UOSERT) has begun operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as of this semester, after a semester’s delay.

UOSERT is a team of student first responders who attend to medical emergencies on campus.  It’s a levy-funded service provided by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). The service previously only covered events, but they will now be on call all the time.

The services were originally meant to begin operating 24 hours a day when they were first implemented, but this plan experienced delays.

“The reason for delaying the start of (24-hour) operations during the last semester was to provide an opportunity for proper documentation and agreements to be completed,” said Steve Bernique, assistant director of Protection Services.

The teams, which usually work in groups of two or three at a time, operate in collaboration with the university’s Protection Services and receive dispatch calls for a range of different emergencies. UOSERT is modelled after similar post-secondary teams throughout the province, explained Bernique.

However UOSERT had been active working at events, according to Roméo Ahimakin, SFUO vice-president of services and communications. “They operated during 101 week, which went spectacularly, it was really awesome. We had a lot of good feedback from Protection Services,” he said.

Ahimakin said that at the time they were still working out the details of UOSERT. He said UOSERT used to only work at particular events, but would talk to Protection Services about expanding their role in the future.

Horsfall said UOSERT needed explicit permissions from Protection Services before taking on new responsibilities due to liability issues.

Emily Mrozinski, a fourth-year human kinetics student, began her first shift this January after completing her training in August 2015. “It definitely helps Protection because they have to call an ambulance if anything ever goes wrong, so it makes it a lot easier for them. If it’s something that can be managed by someone without calling an ambulance it saves a lot of time and effort,” said Mrozinski about the new 24-hour operation.

The members are comprised of students from different academic disciplines who work on a volunteer basis. As part of their training, they go through a 40-hour first responders training course, certified by the Red Cross. Their office, located in The Jock Turcot University Centre (UCU), is complete with beds to sleep in during long shifts.

Team members Abbey Horsfall, Jessica Gill and Mrozinski all say the most common types of calls they’ve received so  far are from intoxicated students needing assistance. 

The student levy-funded service was established after the October 2014 by-election referendum question, passing with 85 per cent yes to 15 per cent no vote. Full-time undergraduate students contribute 75 cents per year for this service, while part-time students contribute 40 cents.