Six men carry a stretcher out from the woods

Support for Rural Paramedics improved but SRD wants to meet with BCEHS

The outlook for rural ambulance services within the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) has greatly improved, several directors agreed. Others require more information. 

Photo credit: Looking out from an airplane at the ambulance by Shawn via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) had intended to introduce a pay scale whereby BC’s rural paramedics would receive $2 an hour unless they are responding to an emergency. This would have led to a mass loss of personnel, as paramedics sought other jobs to support their families. 

In response to the outcry, on August 6th BCEHS introduced a staffing model designed to ensure that communities like Cortes Island, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos have four scheduled on-call (SOC) paramedics. They work 8 hour shifts, then are on stand-by for the next 16 hours, in 3 day rotations. 

The topic came up when Cortes Island’s Regional Director Noba Anderson gave a verbal report regarding the SRD’s recent meeting with MLA Michele Babchuk, representatives from Island Health (VIHA), BCEHS and the Ministry of Health at the Wed, October 6th, SRD Board meeting.

All of the SRD directors were invited, but only Anderson and SRD Chair Brad Unger attended.  

Consequently, the meeting focused on Cortes Island. 

The ambulance attendants Anderson spoke with were concerned with the overall culture of BCEHS and did not feel free to speak about these issues in pubic. Some were almost moved to tears when their Regional Director listened to them. Anderson said the new staffing model is “way better.”

She told the other Directors, “I’m satisfied for the time being, but I’m aware that some of you weren’t involved.”

Mayors Julie Colborne of Zeballos and Martin Davis of Tahsis said the new plan was working in their communities too.  

If there was a follow-up meeting, Colborne would tell BCEHS, ”Communication could have been done much more effectively and probably would have cost much less money for them and us, in the long run, if there had been consultation.”

Mayor Mark Baker of Sayward said he did not believe he had been invited to the meeting and he wanted to be included in the next one. 

Regional Directors Jim Abram and Gerald Whalley also claimed to have not been informed of the meeting. 

While he wanted to attend the next meeting, Abram said he would not have anything to say until Quadra Island’s paramedics meet with him.

These comments prompted SRD Chair Brad Unger to point out that the invitation had  been sent out to every Director and it was part of their job to check their emails. 

Top photo credit: Rescuing someone in the woods by North shore rescue via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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