Retired BCAS Unit Chief asks for a fact check

By: Jun. 16, 2022 5:30 p.m.

To the editor;

I am writing in response to Mayor Stamer’s recent letter in the Star Journal of June 09/22 regarding the local ambulance situation, and the misinformation you are getting.

EMRs are still allowed to work in Barriere. Those local Emergemcy Medical Responders (EMRs) you refer to have been working on the pipeline instead of for the ambulance which is their prerogative, There are literally hundreds of qualified paramedics that left their station to chase the big money, thereby leaving these rural stations short-handed with no staff to fill in shifts for holidays’ sick leave, etc.

The minimum qualifications you refer to were a requirement in 1980 when I went from part-time in Westbank to full time in Vancouver. I was an EMA 1 (Emergency Medical Assistant) the equivalent of today’s EMR. I was required to complete and pass eight weeks of training to the EMA 2 level in 1980 equivalent to today’s Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) in order to work full time. On my own dime. This is nothing new.

I was the only full time paramedic when I came to Barriere in 1988 with EMA 2/PCP, a requirement for the position. At that time there were at least four local members that resigned and walked away because they also felt entitled to the position then, even though they were not qualified for the position.

Would you not want your doctor to be the highest trained possible?

So why would you not want the highest trained full time paramedics for your community?

The PCP training has, and was provided to members of this community, some have moved on to full time work, some did not complete it even with financial support from council. There is more than enough work for the EMRs to cover shifts.

So why are we short staffed?

Pipeline work pays better than working for BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) in some cases. COVID also slowed training ability. Heat Dome, floods, forest fires. under staffing thanks to the Liberal government.

The NDP has done more for ambulance staffing in the last two years than the Liberals did in twenty.

Also, call volume and burn out. I know crew members that responded and treated more opioid over doses in one shift in Vancouver last month than I responded to in 32 years in Barriere.

Lastly, in the 1980s and 1990s, working on your local small town ambulance was more of a volunteer thing. Most of my crew were shift workers at the mill, and house wives who got paid minimum wage basicly to carry a pager and only get paid when they did a call. They did it mostly to help out their community.

Volunteering in rural communities is slowly becoming a thing of the past. I can say with some certainty that the Barriere Fire Department, Barriere Search and Rescue, and the first responders are also under-staffed.

We are in a different time, a busy time, and we want the best. We should be delighted that BCAS made Barriere a full time station with well trained full time PCPs, plus a Community Paramedic as well. Not part time EMRs.

Your information needs a fact check. Not disgruntled opinions.

Tim Hoffman

BCAS Unit Chief Retired

Barriere, B.C