BC Paramedics blame provincial ‘mismanagement’ for ambulance wait time

B.C. paramedics blame provincial ‘mismanagement’ for ambulance wait times

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After a woman who broke her hip at a Burnaby SkyTrain station was left waiting for more than an hour for an ambulance, the head of the union representing paramedics in B.C. says mismanagement of resources is leaving too many people waiting too long for help.

Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC says he heard about this incident. He believes there’s “probably some truth to it,” saying long wait times for people in emergency situations are becoming more common.

“We’re seeing that more and more, where people are waiting for ambulances for extended periods of time, and especially in public places like that that can be a real challenge,” he says.

“I mean it’s tragic when you see something like that, anytime anybody has to wait when they’re in an emergency situation whether it’s critical or not, it’s a horrible experience.”

The physical and psychological impacts of being left waiting in distress can aggravate injuries and compound trauma, Clifford adds.

“It really is becoming — sadly — a norm.”

Clifford says the union has been raising the issue of service delays and shortages of available paramedics for months.

According to him, the issue is not a lack of resources.

We have the ambulances and the funding from the government. It’s really about the mismanagement of the ambulances, and the ambulance service and PHSA and BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS) failing to really provide the mandate that they’re responsible to provide to the citizens of the province,” he says.

“They have an obligation to staff ambulances and put two paramedics in them, to make sure we have enough dispatchers to answer the call, and provide medical assistance while they wait for the ambulances. That’s not happening right now. It hasn’t been happening for a while.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for BC EHS says the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose crisis have put a strain on the system, with calls for service due to the toxic drug supply continuing to break records in May.

“BCEHS continues to get to the most critically ill and injured patients first by prioritizing life-threatening and time-critical calls,” the statement reads.

“BCEHS is closely monitoring staffing levels and making adjustments as needed. BCEHS has added close to 300 permanent paramedic positions since the fall, and is adding more in the months ahead.”

But Clifford says there has not been enough progress on getting more paramedics in the densely populated Lower Mainland, or with recruiting into the profession. Recruitment is of particular concern for Clifford because he says increased workloads and the combined public health crises are putting unprecedented pressure on his members.

“They’re fatigued or tired. When you’re seeing mental health injuries like we are because of the workload, the work we’re doing, it’s definitely affecting people’s willingness to stay in the career.”

“We really have not seen in eight months, any meaningful solutions implemented by the organization and that’s just not acceptable.”