Following shocking heat wave death toll, long wait times for 911, here’s what’s changing about emergency care in B.C.

Kendra Mangione

Updated Dec. 3, 2021 6:49 p.m. PST

[Excerpt] In an update addressing recent issues involving access to emergency health care in B.C., the health minister outlined some changes the province is making that aren’t popular with everyone.

Minister Adrian Dix confirmed in more detail Friday what was already reported by CTV News in November

The province is expanding the scope of care paramedics and others are able to provide.

“When you call 911 and it’s an emergency, you need to know that first responders can help you with every health intervention they are trained, licensed and able to deliver,” the minister said at a news conference.

He said discussions have been going on for years, and this is the culmination of those talks.

“Once the changes are implemented, paramedics and first responders will increasingly be able to help patients on scene. For paramedics, this means the ability to provide more life-saving interventions, which at various licensing levels can include needle decompression for major chest trauma to support breathing, using portable ultrasound to better assess patients and inform care decisions, enhancing airway management skills and providing life-supporting or sustaining medications during transport,” Dix listed.

Firefighters and other first responders will also see a broader scope of care, he said, including diagnostic testing, dealing with life-threatening allergic reactions and “administering care supporting the preparation and packaging of patients for transport by paramedics.”

Additionally, Dix pledged further mental health supports members of B.C. Emergency Health Services, including increased clinical resources.

Some of changes were already outlined by the recently-appointed BCEHS chief ambulance officer during an interview on Nov. 12

While some, including members of the B.C. Professional Firefighters Association (BCPFA), say the change is something they’ve been advocating for for years, others are less on board with the plan.

“They don’t want our job, we don’t want their job,” the president of Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of B.C. said last month.

The union’s Troy Clifford called it a “duplication of services that goes on to municipal taxpayers.”

Instead, the union is pushing for mass hiring, with Clifford saying up to 40 per cent of ambulances are not staffed because there aren’t enough paramedics. 

According to Minister Dix, the province has hired 85 more full-time paramedics and 65 full-time dispatchers as of Nov. 30.

Recruitment is underway for 30 more dispatchers, and nine of the 22 new ambulances promised are now operational.

To read more, visit: Following shocking heat wave death toll, long wait times for 911, here’s what’s changing about emergency care in B.C.

Following shocking heat wave death toll, long wait times for 911, here’s what’s changing about emergency care in B.C.
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