Peace Region struggles with paramedic staffing shortages

There have been multiple recent incidents in BC when patients have died due to a shortage of ambulance staff. While no such incident has occurred in the Peace Region, local health facilities struggle with staffing shortages as well.

Like many other healthcare workers, paramedics struggle with burnout and mental health concerns. Troy Clifford of Ambulance Paramedics of BC says that over 30% of their members either have WorkSafeBC claims or are being treated in stress-related programs.

In rural areas and smaller communities, such as Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, or Hudson’s Hope, this is often made worse by on-call staffing models. That model sees paramedics working an eight-hour shift, then being on call for sixteen hours, for three days straight. Employees either cannot commit to that model, or choose to go elsewhere for better hours.

A lack of full-time positions has also made recruitment and retention difficult.

This, combined with physician shortages, can result in hospital diversions, which might leave a small community without coverage.

“When you see those diminished coverages, or extended period of time when an ambulance may not be available, that’s going to have the very real effect of a potential call that is delayed and not responded to in a timely fashion,” says Clifford. “And that impacts patient care and public confidence, there’s no question.”

Clifford says immediate solutions should include switching from on-call models to more full-time positions with benefits. It will also be critical to staff secondary ambulance crews to increase coverage in areas that need it.