More full-time paramedics coming to northern B.C. : union president

More full-time paramedics coming to northern B.C. : union president

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern British Columbia will finally get the paramedics the region has been desperate for.

President of the Ambulance, Paramedics, and Dispatchers of B.C., Troy Clifford, says B.C. Emergency Health Services is filling positions in at least 18 ambulance stations as the province shifts its delivery model from “on-call” to full-time staffing.

With the change in the service delivery model, Clifford says communities like Hudson’s Hope, Mackenzie, Dease Lake and Atlin will soon have full-time paramedics who live in the community.

Employees will provide community health services and emergency response during shifts, and they will remain on-call after their shifts, says Clifford.

Larger regional centres like Chetwynd and Fort Nelson that already have ambulance stations will transition to full-time centres, staffed 24 hours a day. Eight full-time paramedics will be hired at these locations, drawing from both existing staff and new hires.

BCEHS will also be hiring new paramedics in Prince George, with a full-time air ambulance stationed in the city.

In the past, most small British Columbia communities had “on-call” staffing. Ambulances would be dispatched by pager in the event of an emergency. Staff would only make $2 per hour of “on-call,” requiring paramedics to have other jobs to make ends meet.

“Our biggest challenge right now is to recruit into the profession because of our precarious work model, what I call the on-call, $2 per hour pager-pay model,” said Clifford on CBC’s Daybreak North.

Clifford says the change isn’t a quick fix.

“We got ourselves in a situation that is going to take time to fix.”

Right now, paramedics are being lured to industries that hire health and safety staff for work camps instead of choosing a career as a paramedic, says Clifford.

Even with the increase in staffing, Clifford says communities in the remote north still need a boost in services.

“We have those really remote communities that just don’t have the call volumes, but still have the need for emergency front line care.”

The new job postings are up on the BCEHS website, and Clifford expects hiring to be complete by November 1st.

To view the job postings, visit the BCEHS website.