More ambulances, paramedics the answer to response times issue

CUPE 873 pans Delta mayor’s bid to download provincial service, train firefighters to EMR level.

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September 29, 2014 at 10:40 AM

RICHMOND—Delta Mayor Lois Jackson’s plan to provide emergency medical response (EMR) training to local firefighters is a costly duplication of first responder services that fails to recognize key distinctions between the services and will not resolve longer ambulance wait times, say the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873).

Mayor Jackson’s plan, announced at last week’s Union of BC Municipalities convention, is aimed at giving firefighters a more direct role in such emergency response tasks as blood sugar tests and the use of EpiPen auto-injectors for allergic reactions.  This training cannot and should not replace the work of ambulance paramedics, says CUPE 873 President Bronwyn Barter.

“The answer for suffering ambulance response times is not sending in firefighters.  The answer is providing more BCAS ambulances staffed with paramedics,” said Barter.  “Paramedics are the medical professionals in the field and that is what the patient needs—the continuum of care.”

Barter said that municipalities should be lobbying the provincial government to add more paramedic resources to their area:  “But instead, Mayor Jackson is saddling her municipal taxpayers with even more costs for a service they already pay provincial tax for.  Why pay double?”

Citing annual reports for B.C. municipalities, the CUPE 873 president said that the Fire EMS model is the most expensive way to deliver emergency service.

Last year, for example, the Delta fire budget was $22.7 million for a population of 99,863.  There were 5,894 responses, costing $3,851 per response.  Of those responses, 3,249 or 55 per cent were medical calls and only six per cent of the calls dealt with fires.

The Delta Fire Department has the third highest cost per capita to taxpayers, of all departments in the Lower Mainland.  This compared to a cost of just $343 per response for trained paramedics via the BC Ambulance Service.

“With a properly funded ambulance service, our paramedics and other first responders—including firefighters—will be able to work together more effectively,” said Barter. 

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Contact:         Cameron Eby, Ambulance Paramedics of BC:  604-815-7689

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