Changes are coming to ambulance delivery to Pemberton, and some say the result could be increased wait times for patients.
Pemberton is one of 87 stations in British Columbia that are switching to a scheduled calling model (SOC) this fall, according to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).
Currently, Pemberton has a 90-second response ambulance operating 24 hours a day, as well as a call ambulance with no defined response time.
In the SOC model, paramedics are scheduled for regular shifts, which means they receive their full pay, but are not required to be at the ambulance station.
According to BCEHS, the changes will improve patient services while stabilizing paramedics.
“The staffing changes mean the creation of over 500 new positions across the province, including two new paramedic positions in Pemberton,” said Sarah Morris, media relations with BCEHS, in an email, adding that the changes are part of the implementation of the collective agreement negotiated with the Paramedics and Dispatchers Association of BC.
While the SOC was negotiated by the union as an improvement, it doesn’t quite suit Pemberton, provincial union president Troy Clifford said.
“This is for the most part a real improvement in responses from most communities, but in communities where you already have an immediate response with our wait at the station, when you come back to a call in the community model, it might delay the answers, âClifford said.
“At present [in Pemberton] you have an immediate response with an emergency ambulance at the station, which is phased out instead of this process. This could increase response times outside of regular positions on unscheduled calls. “
The Pemberton Firefighters Association sounded the alarm bells about the change in a Facebook post on June 22, noting that the new model will increase the workload for Pemberton volunteer firefighters.
Firefighters support paramedics by providing emergency services such as site assessment, CPR and basic wound and fracture management until paramedics arrive, the association said.
âFirefighters are not paramedics and cannot provide the advanced care that paramedics can provide,â he said. âLonger response times from paramedics will negatively impact the care of the sickest and most injured patients. British Columbia fire departments also do not have the capacity to transport patients to hospitals or health clinics. “
According to BCEHS, ambulance calls in Pemberton were on the increase before COVID-19. Pemberton ambulances responded to 599 calls in 2018, 711 in 2019 and 636 in 2020. As of June 20, they had responded to 270 calls so far in 2021.
In Whistler, paramedics responded to 1,916 calls in 2018, 2,071 in 2019 and 1,592 in 2020. As of June 20, Whistler had received 669 calls so far in 2021.
The staffing and deployment models have only compounded the challenges for paramedics and dispatchers across the Sea to Sky corridor, said Clifford, noting the dual crisis in the past 15 months of COVID-19 and opioid overdoses.
“And then you add to that our challenges with staffing, workload, recruiting and retention, and I said it was like a triple threat, or it’s a storm type scenario.” perfect who really exposed it and made it our vulnerability, for sure, âhe said.
âStaffing, fatigue and well-being impacts are not unique to large cities; they are in fact in every corner of the province.
To its credit, the government “devotes a lot of resources and funding” to the ambulance service, “but what we’re saying is that we really need to tackle the front-line recruitment and retention issues and well. – be our paramedics and dispatchers, âClifford said.
“I would say these are our top priorities right now because all of these things are intertwined [with] take care of our patients.
Are you a paramedic in the Sea to Sky with concerns about personnel, response times and deployment patterns? Prick wants to talk with you. Email reporter Braden Dupuis at [email protected] or call 604-938-0202.