March 18, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Ambulance service in danger?

Published: March 18, 2010 6:00 PM

Dear editor,

If you plan to never have an accident or get sick in B.C., you would not need to read the following.

In the very near future, there could very well be no provincial ambulance service.

What this would mean to you is that, through a combination of Alternate Service Providers (private-for profit ambulances) and fire departments, your immediate emergency health care needs would be addressed.

In most of B.C., the local volunteer fire department first responders would be responsible for critical care, stabilization and transport.

These volunteers would be expected to leave their families and jobs to provide this service for gas money or an honorarium (if they’re lucky).

In a remote setting or on a Gulf island, this could mean hours of their personal time transporting the patient while dealing with ferry schedules, etc. After the call, more time is needed to restock and decontaminate the ambulance, do paperwork, etc.

As it stands now, BCAS employees in remote areas are paid for a four-hour callout, which gives them the incentive to take the necessary time to ready the ambulance for the next call.

Volunteers would not be so inclined because they have lives that dictate otherwise, family comes first. Burn-out would be huge. Being at the ready 24/7 takes its toll and doesn’t allow for any personal commitments or recreational activities that can’t be stopped immediately to respond in a heartbeat. Emotional stress is also a significant factor.

If available, local doctors would be called out for most calls as well to complement the critical care being offered, putting a strain on their lives, too, and making it less attractive to practise in remote areas.

As far as having “for-profit” private ambulances (Alternate Service Providers), it’s already happening here and CBC Radio recently reported some of the horror stories from Toronto’s experiences.

When volume is the driving force, patient care takes a back seat. One patient is dropped off, another immediately picked up, no time to clean in-between, unnecessarily exposing future patients to pathogens, viruses, etc. Who would regulate, who would care?

Employees who did speak up or refuse to do quick turn-arounds were disciplined or fired on the spot in many cases. Quite often, the staff were not even paramedics and had no medical skills, yet the patients were not informed.

The future looks grim as we watch our provincial ambulance service dissolve before our very eyes. Act now and contact Premier Gordon Campbell, 250-387-1715 or fax to 250-387-0087 or e-mail premier(at); Health Minister Kevin Falcon, 250-953-3547 or fax to 250-356-9587 or e-mail kevin.falcon.mla(at); or Comox Valley MLA Don McRae.

Please help put a stop to this madness! This is an urgent issue as the cabinet will decide the future of emergency health care in B.C. within the next few weeks.

Teresa Marek,

Denman Island

Editor’s note: The letter writer is reacting to an announcement last week by Health Minister Kevin Falcon. To see his statement, go to and find a headline under News called New ambulance service model to benefit patients.

Category: Public