VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Some former paramedics in B.C. are joining the growing calls for a complete revamp of the BC Emergency Health Services organization, following the deadly heatwave.
In an open letter, the BCAS 10-7 Association Society, which represents retired employees of the BC Ambulance Service, says the issues within the organization have existed for a long time, and came to a head in June.
“We have watched our colleagues suffer through these ill-conceived, damaging changes. The unimaginably long waits for service and negative patient outcomes as a result of a poorly managed system are inexcusable. We say enough is enough,” the letter reads.
Society president Steve Williams says the BC Ambulance Service has been neglected and mismanaged to the point of failure.
It is among the latest organizations to call for changes following the response to the heatwave. The BC Coroners Service said over a seven-day period from Friday, June 25 through Thursday, July 1, 719 deaths were reported. A flood of calls to 911 resulted in long wait times for people who required emergency services, and compounded the ongoing problem of lengthy ambulance wait times.
Williams believes consulting is needed to identify the deficiencies and solutions. He expects that will also help to bring in new talented paramedics to the industry. He adds that many paramedics are currently burning out from being overworked in the current staffing levels.
He says the opioid crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, and the heatwave have all hit around the same time, leading to a lack of preparedness when faced with major emergencies.
In May, BCEHS announced it was adding 500 more positions to deal with call volume and help paramedic workloads to support employee well-being.
A report from B.C.’s chief coroner is expected to examine any issues that first responders faced, and the possible link to the deaths, as well as make any recommendations to prevent further tragedies.