LOoking out at the cars and an ambulance boarding the Quadra Island ferry at Quathiaski Cove

Marc Doll speaks out on critical paramedic shortfalls; the doctor shortage & wildfire services in North Island 

There are not enough family doctors and the shortage of paramedics has reached crisis levels. Some people would like to see better fire services in North Island. In the third of a series about the issues he will be facing if elected Regional Director on October 15, Marc Doll spoke about emergency services on Quadra Island.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter on the island and  the ambulance service is currently relying on firefighters to be the driver. Any firefighter that currently has a class four license is basically being put on standby because they no longer have the ability to have two people scheduled to keep the ambulance going. Even with that, there are periods of time where there is no one scheduled and there is no ambulance available on Quadra Island,” he began. “It is as bad as I have seen, and it is getting worse.”

According to Fire Chief Sharon Clandening, there have been at least 15 occasions when firefighters have driven the ambulance since last May and 6 occasions where there were no paramedics on duty this past summer. 

Doll knows three people who have ceased to serve Area C as paramedics or Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) during the last three years. One was a female paramedic who worked in the Outer Islands, but unless there was an emergency she only received $2 an hour standby pay. This was not enough to meet her family’s needs, so she reluctantly moved to Vancouver where paramedics are better provided for. 

“We’re in a crisis situation and you couple that with our ability to get off the island when the ferry isn’t running. There’s solutions that are being worked on right now, but it has been over the last number of months where there have been people that just couldn’t get off the island in a respectable period of time,” said Doll. 

“The Regional District doesn’t have ambulance services under its purview, but there is influence. There is storytelling. There are relationships that need to be built and that is the role of a Regional Director to get those stories out there.” 

Marc Doll has been a volunteer firefighter for the last five years – submitted photo

The Strathcona Regional District Board can collectively lobby for better wages at the provincial level.

Doll’s family is among those that have been touched by a related issue, the island’s shortage of doctors. Their doctor left Quadra and they have not been able to find a replacement.

“One thing that we can do as a community is focus on our housing question. When you look at communities that have been successful in attracting family doctors and have been successful probably in keeping ambulance attendance working, it sometimes comes down to their housing options,” he said.

“There is work that we can do through the SRD as a regional director and  through community organizations. I’m proposing to ensure that we have appropriate housing available for people who are making wages of an ambulance emergency service worker, or even doctors, to have that housing availability there.”

The Quadra Island Fire Department’s service zone only covers South Island. BC Wildfire Service will fight fires in the forest, but residents in North Island must provide their own protection for buildings – Photo courtesy SRD.

The suggestion that fire protection be extended over North Island is more problematic. It is currently served by BC Wildfire Service, whose mandate is to protect forests but not buildings. In 2019, the Quadra Island Fire Department made a proposal to extend their coverage over the island — but they would need two additional fire fighters and a truck. Quadra’s Fire Depart is separate from the SRD, and in 2020 the SRD sent out a survey to find out of North Island residents wanted it to provide fire service. 50% of the respondents said they were not willing to pay any additional taxes to support this. 

“The cost of another fire hall serving a wide area with few people, makes that an untenable choice,” said Doll. 

“However there are people organizing in the areas that are more at distance from the population centres on Quadra Island. Community organizations are making good progress getting the pumps, and getting some of the training. That’s something I know that the Quadra Island Fire Department is willing to work with people, and help with training.”

Top image credit: The Quadra -Campbell River Ferry is a critical link to Campbell River Hospital – Photo by Roy L Hales

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: