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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

When crisis hits: How West Shore RCMP have dealt with the pandemic

More front-line officers on road in mobile offices

Sidney staff recommends additional outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes

Report before council also leaves open possibility of closing a portion of Beacon Avenue

French fries to juicy tomatoes, rock art brings joy to walkers in Victoria

James Bay yard filled with painted rocks delights all ages

‘Depression-era’ unemployment figures could hit Greater Victoria

South Island Prosperity Project launches new dashboard to measure effects of COVID-19

Langford bartender hosts singalong livestream for seniors

Live Senior Singalong takes place daily at 1 p.m. on Facebook

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read