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.

Just Posted

New signage at hazardous Salmon Arm intersection result of ‘nudging’

Mayor pleased council’s requests for improvements to Highway 97B and 10th Avenue heard

Salmon Arm Seniors Resource Centre operations hindered by lack of space

Seniors support programs limited by lack of room at centre’s current location

Salmon Arm residents can send holiday cheer to children in developing countries

Operation Christmas Child collecting gift-filled shoeboxes at Centenoka Park Mall

Man and woman in their 60s identified by RCMP as bodies in Anglemont residence

Police investigation continues, say no suspects are being sought at this time

UPDATE: Power back on for much of the Shuswap

Outages due to downed wires and a transmission circuit failure

Paper Playground gets children performing in North Okanagan

Performing Arts Centre show goes three times Sunday

Third man dies after Kamloops hit-and-run

Three men have now died as a result of the fatal collision on Nov. 3

Nearly half of B.C. drivers nervous in winter conditions: BCAA

‘Wait and see’ approach common practice for 32% of B.C. motorists

October 2019 Vernon’s coldest on record

This past month of October was the coldest since at least 1989

Autism support dog refused bus access for being a ‘pet’

B.C. grandmother files complaint with TransLink, calls for better awareness of service dogs

Students plan rally at B.C. education minister’s office as district strike enters third week

Saanich School District students plan to rally outside Rob Fleming’s constituency office in Victoria

Sex assault charge stayed against Port Moody mayor

Rob Vagramov completed an alternative measures program, special prosecutor said

73% of B.C. residents agree with a temporary ban on vaping products: poll

54% say they would not date someone who vapes, Research Co. poll suggests

B.C.’s 13-cent gasoline gap still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Most Read