Protect rural ambulance services, Victoria told

Emergency services pulled out of smaller community, UBCM delegates hear

The province needs a review of ambulance services and paramedic staffing to ensure emergency health care, Union of B.C. Municipalities conference delegates agreed Sept. 15 | Photo: Adrian Lam, Victoria Times-Colonist

The province needs a review of ambulance services to ensure timely and professional emergency health care, Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference delegates agreed Sept.15.

A resolution said the emergency health services prioritization model often takes ambulance crews from smaller rural communities to provide service to larger communities, leaving rural communities with limited or no ambulance resources within the community, significantly increasing ambulance response times.

“The B.C. Ambulance Service within rural B.C. is under critical paramedic shortage and often there is not adequate availability of paramedics, leading to significant shift vacancies and underserviced ambulances for prolonged periods of time,” a resolution said. “This concern is a long-standing issue, demonstrating that the current model is unsustainable due to the high degree of training and certification required and lack of meaningful and adequate compensation provided.”

As such, delegates passed a resolution, approved by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions, to lobby the province and B.C. Emergency Health Services to establish a staffing model ensuring adequate staffing levels are in place and remain within the rural community boundary.

UBCM Resolutions Committee recommendation: Endorse

In 2020, the UBCM asked Victoria to provide more resources along with a commitment to finding a long-term solution to staff shortages for small rural community ambulance services. 

Delegates have also supported resolutions seeking better and more equitable standby pay for paramedics, better coordination for pre-hospital health care, more solutions to ensure medical specialists and services are available in rural areas and  more advanced care and critical care paramedics in rural ambulance stations.

The resolution noted the province has provided $8 million to the Emergency Medical Assistants Education Fund to provide bursaries to advanced care and primary care paramedic students in B.C., with a focus on educating paramedics who live and work in rural areas.

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