A new scheduling model for BC Ambulance paramedics promises more full-time positions, but Troy Clifford, president of president of the Ambulance Paramedics Of BC, fears that the new model will not benefit Central Saanich. (Black Press Media File)

New paramedic service model rolling out this month on Vancouver Island

Province says new scheduling system promises more jobs and better coverage, union not so sure

A change to the way B.C. paramedics are doing business on Vancouver Island is getting a mixed diagnosis.

According to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), a staffing switch will improve emergency response coverage and create a more stable paramedic workforce across the Island. But the head of the union representing ambulance paramedics fears that it will leave certain dispatch areas behind.

Stations in communities across Vancouver Island are among the first in B.C. to adopt the schedule-on-call (SOC) system as part of the new labour agreement covering 2019 through 2022.

The SOC system increases the number of “alpha” full-time paramedics, while phasing out ambulances staffed under the “fox” shift, which required on-call paramedics to remain at the station during their whole shift (unless out on a call) and respond within 90 seconds.

BCEHS communications officer Shannon Miller confirmed the elimination of fox ambulances across Vancouver Island and eventually all of British Columbia – saying they are making way for a system to create more permanent, regular paramedic positions.

“BCEHS expects to create at least 170 new paramedic positions through the SOC model,” she said. More than 80 new paramedic positions have been posted on Vancouver Island, she added.

RELATED: BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

However, Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics Of BC, called it unacceptable against the backdrop of the needs of some communities. Take the Central Saanich station, for example. Losing its fox ambulance leaves the station without someone in building between the period between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. Instead, two on-call “kilo shift” crews will be in place to staff two ambulances.

“Our position is that this is not an enhancement of services in Central Saanich and consistent with providing high-level access to paramedics and the care they provide for treating and transporting,” he said.

On-call kilo shift paramedics receive a $2-per-hour stipend while required to carry a pager in their communities, then receive their regular wage if on duty. The hourly wage for fox shift paramedics on call-out was $15 per hour.

In Central Saanich, the changes add up to two full-time positions, doubling the current number.

This figure means the community will have “four full-time paramedic positions with 24-hour, seven-days-a week coverage” for the first time in this history, said Miller. Staffing at Central Saanich includes 26 paramedics.

Changes are also coming to Sidney, where the number of full-time paramedics is doubling to eight, according to Miller. The Sidney station has four ambulances and 27 paramedics.

“This, by every standard, is an increase in service to the communities,” she said.

Clifford disagrees.

“Our position is both communities (Central Saanich and Sidney) should require 24-hour immediate full-time ambulance coverage and we are actually at a loss as to why they chose to do that in Central Saanich other than for maybe budgetary reasons.”

Miller said Central Saanich has never had full-time staffing at night.

“By full-time staffing I mean paramedics at the station being paid full-time regular paramedic wages, ready to respond to any 911 medical emergency,” she said.

When asked about claims by Clifford that BCEHS had made decisions without consultation and evidence, Miller said BCEHS considered the data, including time, nature and duration of calls.

“If you are asking if operationally full-time paramedics are required at night in Central Saanich, then that is a matter of station call volume and surrounding community resources (such Sidney and Victoria),” she said. “So the analysis done at the Central Saanich station did not indicate a change required for night coverage.”

Clifford acknowledged the new full-time positions on Vancouver Island.

“If that is consistent with the roll out in the rest of the province, we are going to see some really enhanced ambulance services from a full-time perspective. But that is not going to address some of our challenges with recruitment and filling those spots.” They include the Lower Mainland as well as rural and remote communities.

He also promised to keep BCEHS accountable as the changes roll out.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

hr width=”75%”>

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Most Read