More help on the way

More help on the way

More paramedics will be coming to the Thompson-Okanagan region

The recent heat wave put an unprecedented strain on the already busy BC Ambulance Service.

But an announcement from the province earlier this week is offering increased staffing and the Thompson-Okanagan will benefit from the announcement.

Staffing levels are expected to increase in Kamloops and Kelowna and Peachland will go to a full-time ambulance system.

Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Troy Clifford said they had been asking for increased staffing for some time and the announcement by Health Minister Adrian Dix Wednesday was welcome news.

Dix said the government is providing funding for 85 new full-time paramedics, 30 full-time dispatchers and 22 new ambulances.

While the majority of those new positions will go to the Lower Mainland, Clifford said Kelowna and Kamloops will see up to 10 additional ambulance staff.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm on work load and increased call volume and the pressure paramedics have been under for quite some time,” said Clifford, adding the heat wave exposed the vulnerability of the ambulance service.

The question now is, how will the announced changes impact the area.

“We know that Kelowna and the Okanagan corridor is experiencing those high call volumes that the rest of the province has,” he said. “It’s a growing area.”

Dix’s announcement will also see better service in several smaller centres in the region.

Peachland, Golden, Revelstoke and Sicamous are part of a 22 rural ambulance stations will be converted to provide around-the-clock coverage with full-time personnel.

Clifford said six stations will be upgraded by the fall, but he did not know where the stations will be.

The remainder will be upgraded on an ongoing bases.

Clifford said he is encouraged by the government response to the fact changes are needed.

“It’s definitely going to take a little while to implement some of the stuff, but the other thing that is really encouraging is the expectation that immediately we will continue to work to mitigate these things so we can meet the needs right now,” said Clifford.