January 09, 2012 at 9:40 AM
After six months of toying with the idea of running fewer ambulance cars out of West Shore, B.C. Ambulance has made the change official.The Colwood station now has a single a daytime ambulance Monday through Thursday, a total of 40 hours per week, to supplement its main round-the-clock ambulance.
Before B.C. Ambulance began reviewing its service coverage in Greater Victoria, West Shore had two peak-hour vehicles that ran every day, a total of 154 hours per week, and the 24-7 ambulance.
But since last June, those two cars have only been in the Colwood station when their crews are off duty. At the beginning of each shift, paramedics would drive the vehicles to the central ambulance station on Douglas Street, where they were based until the end of the day, and then driven back to the West Shore.
This change was proposed as a three-month trial that was expected to end in August. But it continued into the new year as B.C. Ambulance analyzed response-time data to see the effect of the shift in resources. During that time, the Colwood station only had the 24-7 car in circulation.
The trial results haven't been released publicly, but B.C. Ambulance director of operations for Vancouver Island? Bob Gallaher said the data showed an improvement in ambulance response times in Greater Victoria, at no detriment to West Shore. He declined to give specific numbers.
"We continue to watch the trends and can re-evaluate this decision at anytime," Gallaher said, pointing out that the station an ambulance is based out of is only its starting point and where it goes between calls, but cars service the whole region. When there's a callout, the closest available ambulance responds.
"The ambulance service doesn't regard municipal boundaries," he said.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said she can understand why the change was made.
"Everyone is watching their dollar and looking for ways to stretch their resources further," she said. "As long as we can't point to any shortcoming with how the (ambulance) service is being provided in Colwood, we really just have to go with the flow on this one and trust B.C. Ambulance to make the best decision."
But regional vice-president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC Union (CUPE 873) Rick Atkinson doesn't think B.C. Ambulance is reaching its target to respond to emergencies in under seven minutes, 90 per cent of the time.
"We don't know for sure because the employer is keeping the result of the trial a secret," Atkinson said. "We're trying to have that information released, so we can show it to the municipalities."
Atkinson has heard anecdotal reports of people waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance in West Shore since fewer ambulances have been stationed in Colwood. And he's concerned about cars from Sooke responding to West Shore calls and leaving no coverage in that community.
Colwood protective services chair Coun. Gordie Logan said moving ambulances out of West Shore seems shortsighted, given population growth in the area.
"They shouldn't be pulling from West Shore to deal with the ambulance shortage in Victoria," Logan said, suggesting the province should have funded new cars for the downtown core and left West Shore levels alone.
But Gallaher insists B.C. Ambulance isn't turning its back on West Shore, citing the new Vancouver Island dispatch centre opening Langford near the Spencer Road interchange in a year and a half. That project includes opening a new four-bay ambulance station.
"Everything we've done has been with an eye on maintaining and improving service in West Shore," Gallaher said.