Radio NL news story

UPDATE – BCEHS issues call out for paramedics to work in Kamloops Tuesday night

First it was an urgent call out for nurses at Royal Inland Hospital, now its a similar call out going out to paramedics in Kamloops.

NL News has learned that as of around 9 a.m. this morning, June 7, there was just one paramedic scheduled to work on all of the ambulances in Kamloops tonight, a city of about 100,000 people.

“I believe that is about four or five ambulances that would be out of service, which is a significant area without emergency services,” Troy Clifford, the President of the Ambulance Paramedics Association of BC, said on NL Newsday. “It is extreme with only one but we’ve been seeing these levels of out of service for a long time.”

“Hopefully, they’ll be able to find some people who will be willing to come in on overtime or from other areas but we’re really depleted in other areas as well so we don’t know if we have resources in Barriere or Chase or around to pull into, which is what happens on a daily situation.”

Ideally, Clifford says, there are four ambulances operating during an overnight period in Kamloops, compared to seven or eight during the day.

He notes BC EHS has known about this staffing shortfall with well over 300 vacant shifts this month, adding it is “not the best management of emergency services” to leave it until the last minute.

“We’ve got the positions but we haven’t recruited paramedics into the profession,” Clifford said. “The government has put a lot of money into the ambulance service but we don’t have enough bodies to fill the ambulances because of a number of reasons.”

“Primarily, it is the ability to recruit people [but] our wages and benefits just aren’t meeting comparative measures with other public safety and health, so people are choosing to go elsewhere.”

Asked about the lack of paramedics, Health Minister, Adrian Dix, says the government is committed to recruiting paramedics to work in the province. He pointed to the addition of 24-hour ambulance service in a number of rural communities, which came into effect last October.

“In addition, I think, what we’ve seen across the healthcare system and a real challenge for ambulance paramedics who have lived through this period is the need to add mental health supports and other supports because we know that this has had a profound on them,” Dix said, noting the government is working with the Ambulance Paramedics Association of BC to address the staffing shortfalls.

“Ambulance paramedics and especially those in the Kamloops area have done some exceptional work this year. They’ve been through more than anyone else, I would argue, in the country. How you deal with this is by adding resources.”

NL News reached out to BCEHS around 11 am. with questions about the call out for paramedics. In a statement around 4:25 p.m., a BCEHS spokesperson said “Kamloops this evening will have a total of four ambulances staffed” while also adding that “overnight there will be two ambulances staffed.”

The statement did not directly answer questions from NL News including where those paramedics were brought in from.

“As a provincial ambulance service with no municipal boundaries, when there are unstaffed ambulances we have a strong system in place to send ambulances from the surrounding stations,” the statement said.

“We are making every effort to recruit for open positions, both through local engagement in communities across the province and through our nationwide recruitment campaign.”