Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon’s ambulance service bolstered

Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon’s ambulance service bolstered

A decision that led to a 30 per cent reduction in ambulance resources in the Central Okanagan has been reversed.

BC Emergency Health Services said it is adding back three ambulances that were put on hold in November when it and the paramedics union couldn’t reach an agreement on staffing.

“The two stations in Kelowna will again have a combined 10 regularly staffed ambulances, and they will now be permanent resources,” Cindy Leong, spokesperson for BC Emergency Health Services, said in a statement.

It’s not only Kelowna that will see services bolstered. A number of permanent paramedic positions have been added to ambulance services in 38 urban communities, including Vernon and Penticton.

These new permanent positions, 75 paramedic positions and 115 emergency medical responder positions were posted on Dec. 2 and are said to build on an initiative earlier this fall that saw the addition of 258 permanent positions in 32 rural and remote communities, according to the statement.

“These positions will be filled early in the New Year, in accordance with provisions in the collective agreement,” reads the statement.

In April 2020, the provincial government introduced the Rural, Remote, First Nations and Indigenous COVID-19 Response Framework to ensure people in rural and remote communities could access critical health services. This included the temporary contracting of an additional 55 ground and five air ambulances.

In November, BC Emergency Health Services decided not to renew the contracts and that sparked concerns that people in need of ambulance care would be facing longer wait times.

Troy Clifford, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, said in November that paramedics are already dealing with staffing shortages, unstaffed ambulances and with the number of ambulances being reduced by 30 per cent, wait times could increase.

He said had the staffing levels not been reinforced, inter-facility transfers would be delayed and they would be pulling in from outlining areas like Lake Country, West Kelowna and Peachland, and potentially hurting the response times in those communities.

Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon’s ambulance service bolstered