Sun Peaks could use more ambulance service, mayor pushing for hybrid model

KAMLOOPS — Despite recent paramedic shortages that have left one ambulance to serve Kamloops one night, the Interior director of the BC Emergency Health Services says the province has stepped up and provided the most full-time paramedic positions it ever has.

“In my career, in the last year or two I’ve seen the largest number of changes in the creation of those full-time positions, so communities like Barriere since the 1980s had only one full-time paramedic now has eight,” said BCEHS Director of Interior Districts Paul Swain. “We have similar full-time paramedic models in nearby communities like Armstrong and Enderby.”

The B.C. government responded to the heat dome with more paramedic positions that have benefitted smaller Interior communities.

President of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC says while it’s great communities like Barriere and Clearwater gained full-time ambulance service in the last year, other smaller communities close to Kamloops — like a growing community in Sun Peaks — deserve one as well.

“I think there’s probably an opportunity to expand Barriere or look at other resources, maybe towards Sun Peaks or even towards Rayleigh maybe to broaden our coverage,” said President Troy Clifford.

That way, Clifford says, it’s less likely resources will be pulled from Barriere or other such towns.

Sun Peaks mayor Al Raine says a 24-hour ambulance might not be cost-effective, but he feels the resort municipality needs a hybrid model. There are currently fire fighters in the community with paramedic training, but there is no ambulance to transport injured people — whether to its health centre or RIH.

“I’ve often thought we should have an ambulance here, and in the case of a critically-injured person, rather than looking after them for an hour here in Sun Peaks waiting for an ambulance, we should have the ability with an ambulance to transport people immediately to Royal Inland.

In the recent census last year, Sun Peaks doubled its population from 616 to more than 1,400 people living there. However, BCEHS can’t commit to anything yet.

“So I can’t speculate on specific changes in the future, but as a service we do monitor our call volume — where the calls are happening,” said Swain. “That helps us figure out the best place to allocate those resources.”

Swain says hundreds of positions have been added in the last year, but recruiting paramedics into those positions has been the challenge.

“For us as an ambulance service, it was a challenge during COVID to bring people in and train them during COVID and the many restrictions that we had, but we’re at a point now where we are actively recruiting. We have a nationwide recruitment campaign and we’re looking to attract paramedics to B.C. in all sizes of communities.”

If you’re interesting in a career as a paramedic, you can visit BCEHS’ career page.

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