Improving ambulance service for rural and remote communities continues to be a major goal for the Ambulance Paramedics of BC.

The issue is being brought back to the forefront as the virtual Union of BC Municipalities Convention kicks off today (Tuesday).

President, Troy Clifford told Vista Radio the on-call model needs a complete make-over.

“That is what we are calling upon – we have been calling for it for a while now and it has to change so that we can compensate those people to staff those ambulances in a lot of communities in the north.”

Currently, many paramedics are only paid $2 an hour during an on-call shift with the hourly wage increasing only if they tend to an emergency or transfer a patient between health facilities.

“And that has really affected our ability to recruit into professions, particularly when you are competing with other health care disciplines, public safety but also the industry. This is especially true when you talk about the north and areas surrounding Prince George where there is lots of industry recruiting paramedics and paying them well for it.”

“When you have an on-call model that relies on part-time precarious work depending on when they are available, you can’t hold them to that status so the end result is those ambulances are out of service.”

On the flip side, communities like Burns Lake, Houston, Fort Saint James, and Vanderhoof will provide 24-hour ambulance service starting October 29th, which is expected to boost response times.

In addition, Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced today (Tuesday) 26 smaller stations are moving to a scheduled on-call staffing model are getting more permanent, regular paramedic jobs, starting November 1st.

Communities in the north that will see this enhanced service are:

  • Bear Lake
  • Granisle
  • Hudson’s Hope
  • Stewart
  • Dease Lake

These service enhancements are the next part of a series of measures announced in July that will strengthen the provincial ambulance service and ensure a faster and more responsive system.

These measures also include:

* hiring 85 new full-time paramedics across the province including eight in Prince George.

* hiring 30 new full-time dispatchers;

The positions are expected to be filled between October and December. This is in addition to 295 full-time and part-time paramedic positions posted by BC Emergency Health Services in early July.