B.C. Ambulance services in Saanich (Black Press Media files)

Paramedic staff shortage at critical level: B.C. union

A number of units were out of service due to lack of staffing in Lower Mainland, union says

The union representing paramedics and emergency dispatchers in B.C. says staff shortages have reached unprecedented levels, affecting regions across the province.

During at least one night shift last week, 24 to 40 paramedic units were out of service in the Sea to Sky, Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley regions, the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC said in a news release Tuesday, calling the circumstance “unacceptable and potentially harmful.”

President Cameron Eby said B.C. paramedics experience some of the highest workloads in the country, with many paramedics in urban areas working above the standard recognized by BC Emergency Health Services decades ago.

“Current workloads in many areas of our province are unsustainable, and we see this reflected in our out of service rates,” Eby said. “Overtime has become the rule, not the exception.”

SERIES: Our Critical Care investigation into problems in emergency health services in B.C.

READ MORE: Slow response, poor coordination hamper B.C. firefighters, paramedics: report

BC Emergency Health Services senior director Neil Lilley acknowledged in an emailed statement to Black Press Media there are ambulance shortages from time to time, saying about 15 units were out of service on Saturday and Sunday.

Ambulances can be unstaffed when paramedics call in sick and when they must go for training, and when there are open jobs, Lilley said.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer said in a February report that ambulances in rural and urban areas often miss targeted response times, and as a result, many patients are not getting the care they need.

BC EHS has been hiring more paramedics and buying more ambulances since 2017. Officials have also been pursuing alternatives to the traditional response of rushing a patient to an emergency room, such as treating them at the scene.

Lilley said an aging population and the overdose crisis “taking its toll.”

“Despite current demands, response times for the most critical calls in high volume areas such as Vancouver are holding steady, and we credit our staff with maintaining this,” he added. “We do know that some patients with less-urgent conditions may be waiting longer at peak times, as we respond to the life-threatening and urgent calls.”

Eby argued that hiring new paramedics in busy cities like Vancouver leaves positions vacant elsewhere.

“BC EHS has been using short-term solutions like vacation overtime and has approved travel expenses for out-of-town paramedics to work overtime in the Lower Mainland – solutions that do not contribute to a reliable future for B.C.’s ambulance service.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Lumby Lions name Good Citizen of the Year

Award goes to Lumby Food Bank operator and North Okanagan Valley Gleaners volunteer Robert Wilkinson

North Okanagan sisters-in-law sleep out successful

Kiley Routley and Heidi Routley raise nearly $2,400 and awareness for youth homelessness

Vernon youth questioned by RCMP after incident on school roof

Police receive reports of debris being thrown from Seaton Secondary roof Saturday

Vernon restaurant winging it with colour

Wings hosts colouring contests where child patrons can win gift certificates

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Dozens of fish die at popular lake near Chase

A few natural phenomena are possible causes for their deaths.

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Most Read