August 02, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Stewart Faces Additional Ambulance Shortage Over Long Weekend
Last on-call ambulance operator walked off job, local says
Stewart residents say that the ambulance shortage in the remote town will go from bad to worse this long weekend.
Moira Hyslop, a local business woman says Stewart's last on-call ambulance worker has walked off the job as of Tuesday, fed-up at the lack of coverage and support in the area. According to Hyslop, this means Stewart will be without ambulance coverage through the long weekend until Tuesday.
"Apparently the reason that we're getting coverage back on Tuesday is that this last (ambulance) worker was going back on holidays with her family, so it was planned to bring someone in to provide coverage. So that person apparently is arriving on Tuesday," Hyslop said by phone from Stewart.
Hyslop says she's concerned that the long weekend brings higher chances for accidents and no help should someone in the Stewart area get hurt.
"You know, it's one thing for me to be on my own, because I have the resources. If something happened. I kind of know where to go and I kind of know where to holler to get the help," Hyslop said. "People travelling in our area, people working in the area that are not familiar with the area, they don't have those resources. And that's what scares me."
Officials from BC Ambulance Services say they are aware of the problem and are attempting to work with the Stewart community to fix the immediate shortage the area faces this weekend. Chief Operating Officer Les Fisher says while they continue to work on the long-term coverage issue in Stewart, this weekend they are looking for local staff to fill the absence.
"Obviously delivering out-patient care in Stewart is a top priority for BC Ambulance, and we have been able to maintain a consistent staff service there over the long haul. We do have some challenges there right now with getting staff, and we're continuing to work with the staff from the local community to try and maintain the coverage over the upcoming long weekend," Fisher said.
He added that if a problem should arise, they will call on neighbouring communities in Kitwanga and Prince Rupert to provide back-up services.
"We're also looking at what alternatives we have for coverage, whether that be for lesser, actute calls for ground ambulance from Kitwanga or using our helicopter from Prince Rupert to get crews in there. But our first approach on this is always to work with the local community and work with the staff that we have there to try to provide coverage," Fisher said.
Meanwhile, Hyslop says her biggest concern is that someone will die while staffing is being sorted out in the area.
"The province of BC and BC Ambulance needs to make sure that the Stewart Ambulance Station is operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure that we have the service available to look after if there's an accident out the highway, if someone has a heart attack in our community. And that's up to them," Hyslop said.