VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Most critical calls in high volume areas have been unaffected by paramedic and emergency dispatch staff shortages, according to BC Emergency Health Services.
However, some non-critical patients have been waiting and will continue to wait longer than normal until a number of vacancies are filled, says Neil Lilley, senior director of BCEHS.
“We do know that some patients with less-urgent conditions may be waiting longer at peak times, as we respond to the life-threatening and urgent calls,” he says in a statement.
“We know it is stressful waiting for an ambulance, and we are working hard on many fronts to ensure adequate ambulance resources.”
The ambulance and dispatch service provider which operates under the Provincial Health Services Authority says service shortages last weekend were not as bad as stated by the paramedics’ union.
Cameron Eby, who speaks for Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia says between 25 and 40 units were out of service during night shifts, accounting for up to 50 per cent of available resources.
BCEHS countered that claim, saying only 15 units sat idle and pointing to a number of reasons that could be the case.
Eby says their numbers just aren’t correct – he has been corresponding with paramedics on shift to keep track of service issues and says he has seen multiple nights with more than 15 ambulances out of commission in the last six weeks.
“[BCEHS is] suffering shortages, and that’s increasing the workload and fatigue in that situation as well. So whether you’re making a 911 call or waiting for the paramedics to arrive, it seems like staffing is an issue as well,” says Eby.
BCEHS pointed to the overdose crisis and the province’s ageing population as factors that are taking a toll on paramedics and straining resources.
“Out of service” refers both to unstaffed ambulances as well as “unavailable” units.
Ambulances are considered unavailable when paramedics are temporarily tied up with cleaning, maintenance, administrative functions or at a hospital.