Air ambulance, paramedics and fire crew at crash scene in Surrey. Helicopters have extended the reach and reduced response time for parts of B.C. (Black Press Media)

B.C. communities call for changes to ambulance response priorities

Rural regions may lose coverage, firefighters could help

It’s been more than a year since B.C. Emergency Health Services changed its 9-1-1 response system to deal with a rise in non-emergency calls, and some communities are calling for changes.

Several resolutions to this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention raise the issue, with rural communities saying they need to make better use of trained volunteer firefighters and others with emergency first aid training to help sick and injured people more quickly.

B.C. Emergency Health Services brought in the “clinical response model” in May 2018, to give priority to the most urgent medical cases when dispatching paramedics and ambulances. (See video below.) It replaced the previous “if you call, we will come” model, which assumed that every call results in ambulance response and transport to hospital.

BCEHS dispatchers were being burdened by non-emergency calls, such as reporting vehicle accidents with no injuries. The new system also allowed for paramedics to treat and release patients, instead of taking everyone to hospital for assessment.

RELATED: One in five 9-1-1 calls in B.C. are non-emergencies

RELATED: Lost jacket, closed restaurant top worst 9-1-1 calls

Municipalities want more use of alternatives if a call is not subject to immediate response.

“Under the new system, highly trained rural first responders attached to fire departments and rescue societies are being called less frequently to medical incidents in their areas, resulting in pain and suffering and risking patient lives in rural and remote areas where ambulance dispatch may be an hour or more away,” says a resolution from the Central Kootenay Regional District.

Fraser Lake council in northwest B.C. says the new response system has aggravated a long-standing shortage of ambulance paramedics in rural regions.

“B.C. Emergency Health Services’ prioritization model often takes EHS crews from smaller rural communities to provide service to larger communities, based on population,” the Fraser Lake resolution states. “This often leaves rural communities with limited or no emergency health care resources in community, significantly increasing EHS response times.”

The UBCM executive has taken up the issue for its annual convention, Sept. 23-27 in Vancouver, calling for a review of restrictions on when firefighters are called. It cites B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s report in February 2019, calling for faster response in rural regions.

Rural paramedic service is a chronic problem in B.C., with standby rates their union points out have fallen below the B.C. minimum wage. Paramedics and dispatchers reached a tentative contract settlement in July and members are voting on ratification of the terms, which have not yet been made public.

The issue isn’t restricted to rural regions of B.C. Port Moody council in Metro Vancouver has a resolution directed at the BCEHS policy of declining to call firefighters when an ambulance is 10 minutes or less away from a call.

“Whereas fire rescue staff are well equipped to provide support to first responders, this 10-minute window is a critical period of time and the condition of the patient can be deteriorating or the illness or injury can be more serious than first thought,” the Port Moody resolution states.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Canfor announces permanent closure of Isle Pierre Mill

The company also announced curtailments at their pulp mills in Prince George.

COVID-19 and returning to safe operation

WorkSafeBC recognizes the importance of worker safety as businesses look to resume… Continue reading

Local governments receiving provincial grants

Meant for infrastructure projects and planning

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read