BC paramedics caution temporary pay hikes won’t solve lingering systemic issues

The head of the Ambulance Paramedics Union is suggesting new changes brought down by the BC government to bolster pay for paramedics will help, but he warns it won’t solve everything.

Troy Clifford says they are happy they’ve been able to reach an interim agreement with the province to bolster the so-called “pager pay” given to paramedics who are on call but not actively responding to an emergency from $2 an hour to $12 an hour.

“We know that [low rate of pay] has really affected our ability to staff ambulances in rural or remote communities and nobody is just willing to do that anymore,” Clifford said, on NL Newsday. “It is decades old service delivery that is just not sustainable anymore.”

The deal, which took effect on Saturday, will also see paramedics paid at a double overtime rate for overtime or recall shifts on evenings and weekends.

It will also replace an incentive launched in June that gave $100 per shift for local paramedics who committed to regular on-call shifts and for paramedics who took a two- to four-week placement in a remote community.

“What you see in a lot of rural communities is a second ambulance that depends on on-call paramedics,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday. “This increases the incentive for people to take those on-call shifts, which is important in establishing services there.”

In three separate incidents this summer, two adults in Ashcroft and an infant in Barriere died while waiting for paramedics, which has led to concerns from local leaders who say it shows rural communities are often impacted more as ongoing emergency room closures lead to long periods with no ambulance coverage as patients have to be taken out of community.

Clifford says his hope is that these temporary measures will convince paramedics currently sitting on the sidelines to come back into the fold, a move which could stop that siphoning of units from one community to another.

“Kamloops is the urban metro centre and they’re already running full-time so you know adding extra shifts and overtime, its hard at best, but if they do and are able to come in on their days off, they’ll be compensated consistently with their partners in police and fire,” Clifford said.

This interim agreement is due to expire at the end of the year or until the province and union reach a permanent deal in contract negotiations.

Both sides began bargaining over a new collective agreement in early October.

BC paramedics caution temporary pay hikes won’t solve lingering systemic issues