(Photo by Jay Wallace Images)

The BC government announced that it is working to improve ambulance response times and support emergency workers amidst the heatwave and worsening opioid crisis.

On Wednesday, July 14th, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is acting immediately to reinforce ambulance operations by providing funding for:

  • 85 new full-time paramedics;
  • 30 full-time dispatchers;
  • 22 new ambulances; and converting 22 rural ambulance stations to 24/7 ALPHA stations to enhance ambulance coverage for these communities.
  • Six are scheduled to be running by October 2021.
  • Plans for up to an additional 16 stations will be ready by October 2021.

Minister Dix also said he will be reconstituting the BC Emergency Health Services board of directors to focus solely on ambulance services and returning to the pre-COVID-19 first-responder dispatching practices for 911.

Appointed to chair of the board is Jim Chu, former chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department; to service as a special adviser to the board, Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus; and to serve as BC’s new chief ambulance officer on an interim basis, Leanne Heppell.

BC Emergency Health Services will now be led by a chief ambulance officer responsible for the day-to-day management of the BC Ambulance Service.

Additionally, the province said it is directing health authorities to add additional staff to receive patients and care for them when they arrive at the emergency department.

To aid health-care workers, the province is contracting a team of mental health and wellness professionals to work directly with dispatch staff and paramedics to address chronic stress, fatigue and support wellness among staff (including access to trauma-informed therapy).

The province said that continued collaboration between the BC Emergency Health Services and the Ambulance Paramedics of BC will ensure a constructive and cooperative approach to protect their employees.

Since January 2021, 271 paramedics have been hired by BC Emergency Health Services and since 2017, the province has increased the BC Emergency Health Services annual budget from $424.25 million to $559.12 million a year.

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