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

Summerland begins reopening aquatic centre

First phase of reopening planned for Sept. 8

Morning Start: The Exorcist film set was haunted

Your morning start for Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020

Former Summerlander receives Emmy nomination for makeup work

Lucky Bromhead recognized for her work with Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek

Morning Start: High heels were first designed for men

Your morning start for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020

Local state of emergency declared at Penticton home

Slope failure cited as city issues notice at home in 600 block of Heather Road

Perseid meteor shower at peak on Aug. 11 and 12

Find place away from city lights for optimal viewing

Brain safety top of mind for North Okanagan kids

Bylaw officers noticing a number of youth out riding bikes, scooters, skateboards without helmets

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production

Critic calls decision to proceed without thorough testing ‘dangerous and grossly immoral’

UPDATE: House fire spreads to nearby bush in North Okanagan

Small blaze burning near Vernon in Six Mile area

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Doctor slain in Alberta medical clinic was devoted father, husband

Red Deer doctors on edge after attack on colleague who had two young daughters

Temporary Kelowna COVID-19 testing site closes as case numbers stabilize

Testing is still available by appointment at Interior Health’s Urgent and Primary Care Centre

Most Read