BC Paramedics raise patient safety concerns

BC Paramedics concerned that recent direction from Fire Department has put patients at risk. 


VANCOUVER, B.C., APRIL 15, 2019–

The Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC) are sounding the alarm following reports of a delayed request for an ambulance for a patient in cardiac arrest.  These concerns follow a recent memo issued by the Fire Chief in Port Coquitlam, Nick Delmonico, directing staff at municipal facilities to call 911 and ask for “Fire” instead of “Ambulance” when they encounter a medical emergency. 

APBC was recently made aware of an event in Delta, where “Fire” was requested by a calling party for a choking patient.  The ambulance and paramedics were only called after the fire dispatch received the initial 911 call. The caller was lost, so no information about what type of emergency was occurring was provided. This confusion resulted in a delay in the definitive emergency care of paramedics and emergency medical call-takers. 

British Columbia Emergency Health Service (BCEHS) emergency medical call-takers are trained to provide life-saving medical directions over the phone to calling parties.  Emergency medical call-takers stay on the line with the calling party, and through a series of questions are able to determine the appropriate course of action for a patient and can provide time-sensitive and critical instructions to bystanders on how to attempt to clear a foreign body airway obstruction and when/how to start CPR.   Fire call-takers are not trained to recognize such situations nor provide life-saving medical direction over the phone.

“Delaying the request for paramedics to medical emergencies is dangerous and life threatening.  It is imperative that the correct resources are mobilized without delay for critical situations, as time can be the difference between life and death,” says Cameron Eby, Provincial President of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, “our emergency medical dispatchers and call-takers will ensure that all the appropriate resources are dispatched to every call, and in the case of an obstructed airway or cardiac arrest, the fire department will be dispatched alongside paramedics without delay.  It is very concerning to have fellow public safety officers provide direction that impedes the ability of our communication staff and paramedics to render care”.

APBC wants to remind the public, regardless of the nature of the event, or the venue you are calling from, to always request an ambulance for a medical emergency. 

 “If your house is on fire, you should request the fire department.  If you or someone around you is in need of medical attention, you should request an ambulance and paramedics.  This will ensure the person in need will receive emergency help, both over the phone and from the appropriate emergency responder(s),” states Eby.


About Ambulance Paramedics of BC:


Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia is the union organization that represents the 4,500+ Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of the province of British Columbia, Canada. Please visit www.apbc.ca for more information.


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:


Cameron Eby, Provincial President

Ambulance Paramedics of BC

Emergency Dispatchers of BC

CUPE Local 873


(604) 815-7689