A camper truck drives along a rural community road, there is a mountain in the background

Province improves BC Ambulance Service in Nakusp

Editor’s note: The shortage of paramedics serving in BC’s rural communities, from Quadra Island to the Interior, has been an ongoing problem. Cortes Island appears to be one of the exceptions, in that it “is not facing any significant staffing issues.” Here is another success story.

By John Boivin, Valley Voice, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nakusp is going to have a fully-staffed, 24/7 ambulance service in the near future.

BC Emergency Health Service says it’s improving ambulance service in the community by providing eight full-time paramedic positions.

Nakusp is one of 31 communities that will be receiving more permanent full-time paramedics.

“I’m pleased to be writing to let you know that BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is expanding paramedic resources in your community,” Leanne Heppell, the executive vice-president and chief ambulance officer BC Emergency Health Services, wrote to Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik on September 14. “We have been monitoring and listening to feedback from your community and are now taking action.”

Heppel said funding for the program is coming from the Rural, Remote and Indigenous Framework (RRIF). RIFF was announced in 2020 during the pandemic to help improve access to healthcare for people living in rural and remote parts of the province.

End to SOC in Nakusp 

The announcement means an end to the controversial ‘scheduled on-call’ system.

“The Scheduled On-Call (SOC) staffing model in Nakusp will be phased out and replaced with a ‘24/7 Alpha’ model, which refers to a fully staffed ambulance around the clock with full-time paramedic positions,” Heppel wrote. “This will create eight more permanent, full-time jobs in your community and will help stabilize paramedic staffing, which in turn will improve responsiveness and emergency coverage.”

Zeleznik is happy with the announcement, and says he will now work to improve ambulance service in a neighbouring community.

“My goal now is to work collaboratively with New Denver council/mayor and community to find a solution that will better fit their emergency program,” he says. “Nakusp and New Denver are in this together as a team, and we need to continue to support both communities on the argument for better services in the health/emergency system – as lives matter, not statistics!”

Rural communities have complained for months that the SOC model is substantially increasing wait times, creating staff shortages and leaving communities without ambulance service, sometimes for hours at a time. 

The good news for Nakusp came the day after Mayor Zeleznik and New Denver Mayor Leonard Casley made a presentation about the need for better rural ambulance service at the Union of BC Municipalities convention.

The Nakusp ambulance service covers the area that extends from Trout Lake to Summit Lake, and south and west to the top of Monashee Pass. New Denver ambulance serves Highway 6 communities from Hills in the north to Enterprise Creek in the south, and Retallack on Highway 31A.

No firm date was set for the new paramedics to begin work in Nakusp. 

In all, the Province is adding 208 full-time positions in the 31 communities.

Top image credit: Nakusp – Photo by Andy S via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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