Princeton and Keremeos will soon have enhanced ambulance service. (Black Press file photo)

Princeton and Keremeos will soon have enhanced ambulance service. (Black Press file photo)

Princeton and Keremeos to get 24-hour ambulance service

Alpha stations will be established in both Similkameen communities

The communities of Princeton and Keremeos will each receive 24-hour paramedic service.

At the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board meeting on Aug. 19, Joe Puskaric of the B.C. Emergency Health Services said the Alpha stations are expected to be in place in both communities by the end of October.

Each will have a full-time unit chief and seven primary care paramedics. Two part-time paramedics will also be on staff at each location.

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Within the region, there will be supervision around the clock as well.

While regional district directors are pleased with the decision to improve service levels, they raised concerns about the length of time for some ambulance calls.

“We’re still having some severe issues with response time,” said Bob Coyne, mentioning a recent three-hour wait time for an overdose call.

Ron Obirek said the long wait times are a problem throughout the regional district.

“I have heard so many of these concerns,” he said. “The frustration for us is real intense.”

Subrina Monteith suggested B.C. Emergency Health Services work in collaboration with first responders such as firefighters in the regional district’s communities. This would help to reduce response times, she said.

Princeton mayor Spencer Coyne said filling the new positions and providing housing to the additional paramedics will be a challenge. However, Puskaric believes workers will move to or near rural communities if they can have full-time work.

“If we can establish full-time work in a community, people will then move to these communities to live there, work there,“ he said. “There will be people coming there to work.”

Similar 24-hour Alpha stations are being set up in other communities in the region, including Osoyoos, Oliver and Summerland. Every community in the region with an ambulance station will be converted to an Alpha station, Puskaric said.

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