B.C. tests $12/hour minimum for on-call paramedics to curb rural shortages

Increasing paramedic on-call wages from $2 to $12 an hour is one of a few interim measures designed to help increase staffing with the B.C. Ambulance Service, according to an update from the province.

CUPE Local 873 has been running a campaign sounding the alarm on critical under-staffing for ambulance paramedics and emergency dispatchers.

Burnout, mental health issues, low wages and poor benefits are contributing to staffing shortages and longer wait times for people who need emergency medical care, according to the union.

Health minister Adrian Dix announced the interim measures, which temporarily replace previous incentives put in place to recruit paramedics for shifts in rural and remote communities.

“We are hopeful that these interim measures will help stabilize staffing as our representatives work together at the bargaining table on a stable and sustainable longer-term staffing agreement,” reads the agreement, signed by Neil Lilley, chief operating officer for BC Emergency Health Services and Troy Clifford, provincial president of CUPE Local 873, which represents B.C. paramedics.

Effective Oct. 22, the measures continue until Dec. 31, 2022. However, both parties will meet, along with a provincial representative, before Dec. 12 in order to determine if the agreement should be extended.

In addition to the on-call wage increase, other initiatives include doubling the regular hourly rate of pay if working overtime or recall shifts under various conditions identified in the agreement, particularly on evenings and weekends.

Last year, Dix announced the conversion of 24 ambulance stations from on-call to full-time 24/7 service, while also adding more permanent staffing to 26 smaller stations in rural and remote communities.