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

Dale family was prominent in Summerland’s past

Ruth Dale taught for many years

Penticton Vees comeback for overtime win to end regular season

The Vees were down 3-0 to start the third before putting together an epic comeback.

PHOTOS: Celebrating diversity in Penticton

Seventh annual OneWorld Festival celebrates the worlds of different cultures in the South Okanagan.

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Vees secure 4-1 win against Wenatchee

On Saturday night the Vees take on the Wild again at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Kelowna RCMP make arrest in fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Elijah Beauregard

An 18-year-old woman is in police custody facing a manslughter charge.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

BC Senior Curling titles to be decided in Vernon

Wes Craig, Penny Shantz looking for fifth championships; Steve Wright, Donna Mychaluk into finals

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Most Read