The role of ambulance paramedics is changing in smaller communities, where emergency calls are fewer and chronic health needs are growing. (Black Press files)

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

The B.C. government is nearing its goal of providing 99 communities with rural paramedic support, and has added six new advanced paramedic positions in larger communities.

Advanced-care paramedic jobs are being added in Campbell River, Cranbrook, Prince Rupert, Salt Spring Island, Fort St. John and Valemount, as the province and the new Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. union implement a new three-year agreement ratified Oct. 1. Advanced care paramedics specialize in trauma care with cardiac resuscitation.

The 99 communities are getting expanded service from community paramedics, including home visits to check on medications and other home services, as well as assistance with care home residents.

Rural paramedicine started as a pilot project in Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Hardy, Cortes Island, Fort St. James, Hazelton, Chetwynd, Creston and Princeton in the spring of 2017. It has since grown to 129 community paramedic positions, with many communities having two paramedics sharing the equivalent of a full-time position.

Beginning under the previous government and continuing today, the province is moving away from on-call paramedic jobs that had low pay and often couldn’t retain skilled people in small communities. There will still be on-call positions in addition to the rural paramedicine program, but the system is changing as a result of the new union agreement.

“The parties have agreed to a new scheduled on-call deployment model that will improve 24-hour emergency response coverage and the recruitment and retention of paramedics in up to 92 rural and remote communities in B.C.,” the Health Employers Association of B.C. said in a statement to Black Press.

RELATED: B.C. communities call for change to ambulance priorities

RELATED: ‘Critical condition’ series examines B.C. pre-hospital care

The three-year agreement includes general wage increases of two per cent per year, the finance ministry’s current mandate for all public service union employees.

After the NDP government took over in the fall of 2017, Health Minister Adrian Dix established paramedics and dispatchers as a separate union local, to integrate them with care homes and home support for seniors. He said it would also help with B.C.’s response to the opioid overdose crisis, which has stretched ambulance resources to their limits.

B.C. Emergency Health Services has also introduced a new dispatch protocol for 9-1-1 calls that has proven controversial in some communities. Implemented in response to a rise in non-emergency calls such as vehicle accidents with no injuries, it allows dispatchers to prioritize available ambulances, and lets paramedics treat and release patients instead of taking everyone to a hospital emergency.

Fraser Lake and Central Kootenay Regional District sent resolutions to B.C.’s annual municipal convention in September, arguing that the change takes already thin ambulance coverage away from rural communities to meet demand in urban centres. They called for more use of volunteer firefighters and rescue societies to respond to calls.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Westbound vehicles gridlocked on Highway 1 from crash in Langley

Estimated wait time to get past 248th Street is over an hour from Bradner Road

B.C. man who murdered Belgian tourist near Boston Bar gets life in prison, no parole until 2042

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

B.C.’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein of guns’ back in jail yet again for trafficking in Glock parts

Bradley Michael Friesen has parole revoked for allegedly importing gun parts yet again

Starrett’s Pond in Hope to become healthy salmon habitat

Volunteers planted 3,600 trees, shrubs and willow whips at gravel pit

Intergenerational music time connects preschoolers with seniors in Hope

Hope Preschool and Daycare Centre brought its new intergenerational music time to Fraser Hope Lodge

VIDEO: Ron MacLean says he doesn’t believe former co-host Don Cherry is racist

Sportsnet fired Cherry on Nov. 11, two days after controversial on-air comments during ‘Coach’s Corner’

Union to prepare for picket lines, announce new measures in transit strike escalation

Unifor said the move comes after a ‘failure by the employer to make new offers at the bargaining table’

Workers union calls strike vote in SkyTrain labour dispute

Mediated talks are scheduled to begin Nov. 28

‘Our culture is not a religion,’ indigenous educator tells B.C. Supreme Court in case of smudging at school

Mother also gave evidence Tuesday in Nanaimo courtroom, case continues Wednesday

Trudeau to take sober approach to unveiling new cabinet for minority mandate

Liberals survived a bruising campaign that diminished Trudeau’s stature as a champion of diversity

Lowe’s says it will close 34 ‘underperforming’ stores across six provinces

The stores include 26 Ronas, six Lowe’s and two Reno-Depots

B.C. to advocate for frustrated, confused, unhappy cellphone users, says premier

Maple Ridge New Democrat Bob D’Eith to advocate for more affordable and transparent cellphone options

‘Very disrespectful’: B.C. first responder irked by motorists recording collisions on cellphones

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue deputy chief challenges motorists to break the habit

Most Read