Winnipeg's paramedics are now trained in a specialized therapy that could save responders valuable time when assessing heart attack patients.

It’s called the STEMI protocol, and it was first introduced to the city in 2008. At that time, not every paramedic was trained to trigger it, but now all 533 paramedics on staff have the ability to do so, shaving off minutes that could save lives.

The protocol allows all primary care paramedics to assess a heart attack patient in their home using an ECG machine with 12 electrodes.

Based on the information from the ECG and the symptoms, the paramedic can diagnose the patient who is having the most severe kind of heart attack called an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction or STEMI.

Once the diagnosis is made, the ECG is wirelessly transmitted to a doctor in real time, and the paramedic will call the doctor to determine the next step.

Together, the doctor and the paramedic will decide between three options.

In the case of the patient suffering a STEMI, they would go directly to the cardiac catheterization lab where the blocked artery would be reopened. The paramedic may also administer a clot-busting drug on scene.

If the patient is not having a STEMI, the ambulance would transport the patient to the nearest hospital.

Since 2008, 200 patients on average have been treated each year using the protocol.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the mortality rate for pre-hospital STEMI patients has dropped from one in 10 in 2007 to one in 30 in 2015.

The industry target is to get heart attack patients to a cardiologist in 90 minutes. Winnipeg’s current average time is 70 minutes.