Proposed changes to BC Ambulance could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics.
BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is introducing a new system across the province for rural and remote stations — including Revelstoke — called Scheduled On-Call (SOC).
According to BCEHS, the changes will improve emergency response coverage and create a more stable paramedic workforce. Black Press Media spoke with paramedics in Revelstoke and across the province, who fear the changes could prove fatal.
Under SOC, select stations including Revelstoke, Golden, Nakusp and Sicamous, might only be staffed eight hours per day. For the remaining 16 hours, paramedics will be on-call.
Approximately 90 stations across the province are expected to follow SOC, starting with a pilot project this summer on Vancouver Island. Revelstoke is slotted to get the new system this fall.
Currently, there are paramedics around the clock at the Revelstoke station with a 90-second time limit to respond to calls.
Local paramedics warn the conversion to SOC could substantially increase response times up to 20 minutes, during the 16 hours when no one is at the station. Black Press Media is keeping the names of the paramedics confidential as they are not authorized to speak with the press.
“This new system will put a strain on us and the community,” said one local paramedic.
The paramedic said longer response times will be particularly concerning for crashes on Highway 1 at Rogers Pass, approximately 70 km east of Revelstoke.
Paramedics from other remote communities in B.C. shared similar concerns.
Regardless, for many stations, SOC will be an improvement said Troy Clifford, provincial president of the paramedic’s union.
In Nakusp for example, paramedics are currently on-call around the clock. With SOC, Clifford said the Nakusp station will be staffed eight hours per day, which should result in faster response times during those hours, said Clifford.
However, due to Revelstoke’s call volume and since its station is already staffed each hour of every day, Clifford said the new model should not be used in that community.
“It would be a step backwards,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
In 2020, the Revelstoke station received 705 calls for an ambulance.
While SOC will create more full-time positions — up to three more in Revelstoke — several paramedics said the new change could force them to look for new employment elsewhere.
Several part-time paramedics said they expect a pay decrease under the new system, which would make it more difficult to stay in communities like Revelstoke, where the cost of living is high.
Paramedics make $2 per hour on standby and full wages when responding to calls.
Black Press Media reached out to BC Emergency Health Services for comment. The agency said it will release more details on the coming changes shortly.
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