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More paramedics needed in rural and remote communities

Paramedics across Northern BC and the entire province are experiencing staffing shortages, leading to burnout for those responding to calls.

Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC President, Troy Clifford told Vista Radio they are experiencing recruiting challenges in rural and remote communities dating back to last summer.

“We’ve seen times where there is one ambulance covering the community and I think you are up to 100,000 people in the Prince George catchment area and that is just an unacceptable level.”

“We have seen challenges in all of those communities in the rural and remote scenarios and those issues are primarily due to recruitment into those communities and into the service and profession. We are seeing staffing shortages dating back to last summer.”

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Clifford stated 75% of their service delivery model is relying on on-call and part-time delivery members, which is centered around an old, unsustainable model.

“We are paying paramedics two dollars an hour when they are on a call-out ambulance so when they are waiting for a call or a minimum wage of just over 15-dollars an hour while they are on standby waiting for a call. They only get their paramedic wages when they get a 9-1-1 call or interfacility transfer.”

The illicit drug overdose crisis, which has been active for over five years in BC is taking its toll on paramedics, accelerating burnout levels.

“We are seeing 70, 80, 90 calls a day across our province for overdoses and we are up to five years now that we have been facing this crisis. It’s a very real thing that we face.”

“The overdose crisis as you know is very real. It’s not just a Metro Vancouver issue – it’s in every community in the province whether it is Prince George or smaller rural and remote communities. Those five deaths that we’ve seen in the last month every day across our province are very real to paramedics,” added Clifford.

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However, Clifford mentioned some level of help is coming.

“Fortunately, there is some positive hope on the forefront where the organization is adding additional full-time positions and converting on-call ambulances in Prince George but that is still a month or two away when it comes to people transferring in for those positions.”

In December, BC Emergency Health Services welcomed a new helicopter ambulance to its Prince George Airbase.

The aircraft will be able to service areas as far as Dawson Creek and Smithers on a single tank of gas.

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