Council defers decision on medical first responder program

Revelstoke city council has opted to stay the course for the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services’ medical responder program until June, when they will take another look at

Revelstoke city council has opted to stay the course for the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services’ medical responder program until June, when they will take another look at it.

In the meantime, city council will continue to explore the greater issue of funding for programs such as highway rescue, medical response, search & rescue and the victim services program. Meanwhile, Fire Chief Rob Girard will also continue to explore ways to save money, including working with outside stakeholders such as the BCAS, IHA and Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

The decision came at council’s Jan. 11 meeting after they deliberated a report from Chief Girard.

“We are saving lives, there is no doubt about it,” Coun. Phil Welock told council about the medical responder program. The fire department is one of Welock’s portfolios as councillor.

However, Welock went on to express a view also voiced by the majority of councillors at the meeting: medical response is a provincial responsibility. Not only should the province be providing the service, but they should be paying for it as well.

In the meantime, council is between a rock and a hard place. Do you stand down responders and wait for the inevitable life and death situation when they are needed? Or do you send them, thereby letting the province off the hook, and also shifting costs for the medical service from the province to municipal taxpayers?

Coun. Chris Johnston wanted to find out what was at the root of ambulance shortages in Revelstoke. Chief Girard’s report noted several periods of shortages in 2010. “Is this a shortcoming in the system generally?” Johnston asked. “Is BCAS inadequately funded or staffed?”

Coun. Steve Bender echoed the same sentiment: “Are we filling in for the BCAS and health … and should we be?”

Council also decided to invite BCAS to meet with council.

Coun. Peter Frew said council had lobbied the province on the issue at the last UBCM meeting, but was told the province had no extra money for the programs. “We don’t have the funding to do it either,” Frew said.

Two motions by Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt were defeated. One made specific recommendations to Girard about who he should consult on the issue, but other councillors felt this would be limiting, and Girard would likely take the steps anyway without them being spelled out.

The other motion by Halberstadt would have seen the medical responder program performed on a volunteer basis only. The motion didn’t get the support of a seconder, so it was not debated.

Following the meeting, Coun. Welock told the Times Review he will continue to work on fact-gathering with the goal of compiling a report on funding for the four aforementioned programs. The report could then be used as a tool to lobby the province, if council so wishes.