April 14, 2014 at 4:32 PM
Ambulance system overhaul required: QC mayor
The BC Ambulance system is not working when it comes to rural communities and needs a complete overhaul, says Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha.
Ms Kulesha said she was happy to hear earlier this month that there are a couple of new recruits in Queen Charlotte, but the system needs much more than additional volunteers.
“We need a new vision for training and retaining paramedics,” she said. “The emphasis that the organization has on it being a volunteer service does not appear to be realistic for the amount of time and training required.
The islands’ four ambulance units have been suffering from chronic staff shortages in recent months, and people who call for an ambulance sometimes have to wait for up to an hour for one to arrive from another community.
BC Ambulance media relations manager Kelsie Carwithen said the organization hired two new employees for Queen Charlotte in December and fast-tracked them through orientation and the emergency medical responder program.
“One of these new employees is currently in Vancouver gaining invaluable experience to be prepared to provide excellent patient care in Queen Charlotte,” Ms Carwithen said. “There is also one additional applicant moving through the hiring process... It is hopeful that with the new hires, service provided by BCAS on Haida Gwaii will improve immensely.”
BC Ambulance has also distributed three applications in Skidegate to potential recruits, Ms Carwithen said.
Ms Kulesha said she applauds the volunteers for stepping up, but believes BC Ambulance must change the way it serves Haida Gwaii and other remote communities.
“Our problems are really an indication of the status of BC Ambulance for rural BC - the system simply does not work,” she said. “One discussion was developing a floating pool of paramedics to cover communities such as ours when we were down attendants but there is still no provision of this service. We have local paramedics who if they were paid would take the position but cannot quit their jobs.”
According to Ms Carwithen, BC Ambulance is planning to provide some ongoing medical education for paramedics on the islands, and will be able to provide additional ambulance coverage while the instructor is here. The ambulance service has also been talking to local fire departments about becoming First Responder certified as an additional resource.