Past Breaking Point with Ambulance Paramedics of BC
This summer’s heat dome on the West Coast put substantial pressure on B.C.’s ambulances. Troy Clifford, President of Ambulance Paramedics of BC and Shelby Weber a full-time paramedic in Surrey shared with Coastal Front, revealed the emergency service has been operating past breaking point for some time now.
Coastal Front got wind of firefighters turning up to medical emergencies because paramedics were unavailable. What was going wrong if people calling 911 for a health issue were being assisted by fire crews?
Host Andrew John had an illuminating discussion with two people on the frontlines of the crisis, Shelby and Troy.
An extreme heat wave caused by a heat dome hit much of Western North America in June and July this year. Temperatures reached 49C in parts of British Columbia, directly causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.
The heat dome could be described as the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. but according to Shelby the “camel has had three legs for a while”.
Difficulty recruiting new staff means the existing 4,500 paramedics and 270 medical dispatchers are stretched too thin and cannot make it to as many calls.
Heat Dome Increased Calls by 25%
The heat dome led to an additional 2,000 emergency calls per day. The heat wave led to around 700 deaths.
The added pressure put unmanageable strain on B.C.’s ambulance staff. Shelby told Coastal Front how on a shift during the heat wave, her ambulance was redirected from one cardiac arrest while they were already on the way to another cardiac arrest.
Overworked and underpaid
The difficulty with recruitment largely comes down to pay. Fledgling paramedics are often sent to remote areas where their pay can be as low as $2 an hour if they are working and not attending a call, Troy revealed.
Shelby said she and her fellow paramedics just want to be paid fairly for the stressful job that they do and to have a more reasonable work-life balance.
Troy and Shelby also shared some of their ideas for possible solutions to this crisis.