Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)

After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

After a night of un-staffed ambulances and 911 call response times of up to an hour in Metro Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 19, the ambulance union went public, calling on the BC Ambulance Service to do better.

It was the urban area that hit a breaking point, but Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia president Troy Clifford said the system is strained across the province, especially in the Kootenays and northern B.C.

The first five to 10 minutes in a medical emergency are critical for the best chance of positive outcomes, Clifford said.

BC Emergency Health Services which runs the ambulance and dispatch system in B.C. said in an emailed statement that staffing levels are stable overall, with the Friday night delays caused by a combination of higher than average calls that night, general increased calls relating to the opioid crisis and COVID-19, and some paramedics booking time off that night.

The ambulance service said the only calls with a one-hour wait time were less critical calls, but that life-threatening symptoms were still prioritized.

“Our median response time for these most critical “purple” and “red” calls in Vancouver and area on Friday was 10:03 and 9:14 minutes respectively,” COO Darlene MacKinnon said.

Clifford points at the BC Ambulance Service, saying they wait until a vacancy exists before posting the job, leading to delays in filling positions.

“Those are capacity issues, those are system issues that should not be holding up getting care to people.”

Hiring delays coupled with what Clifford says is a non-existent recruitment and retention strategy have culminated in February being the worst month yet for staffing shortages.

About three-quarters of the province is served by on-call paramedics who earn $2/hr when they’re on call, $15/hr on standby, and only get their full paramedic pay when they’re on an actual ambulance call.

On average, new paramedics put in four to five years as an on-call, part-time employee before getting a chance at a full-time job. For many, it’s unsustainable. In smaller regions, where new recruits often end up, the call volume is low to the point that they don’t make a living wage.

“We haven’t done a very good job of enticing people because we don’t have a lot to offer them in this model we have,” Clifford said.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Healthcare and Medicine

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hailey
Artist launches new business with help of 7S educator

Former school first client for Mystic Design owner Hailey Revolone, a Seven Summits alumna

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

First-year Selkirk College student Terra-Mae Box is one of many talented writers who will read their work at the Black Bear Review’s annual (virtual) launch on April 22. Photo: Submitted
June Hills of Trail won a big jackpot of $5,083 playing Bingo on Friday night with the @RotaryCommunityOnlineBingo on Facebook. Photo: Submitted
Trail player wins big jackpot in Rotary Community Online Bingo

Cards for regular games go on sale every Sunday

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read