A decision that would have negatively impacted the ambulance service level for 22 rural B.C. communities, including Kimberley, Revelstoke and Golden, has been reversed, following the efforts of MLA Doug Clovechok and the mayors of those communities.
Kimberley will continue to maintain 24/7 Alpha coverage, which means 90-second response times and that the paramedics providing that coverage will now have full-time jobs.
BACKGROUND: ‘Unintended consequences’ of labour agreement could increase rural ambulance response times’
”From the community point of view the maintenance of tier-one service was the most important thing, but for the paramedics, their pay scale has been out of whack for a very, very long time and getting all of this coverage under full-time jobs was huge,” said Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick. “This has ended up being a major change on many fronts, that’s positive for everybody.”
Back in June, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok’s office was getting calls from paramedics around the riding, voicing their deep concerns that the new agreement between the BC Emergency Health Service (BCEHS) and the paramedics union would have an adverse impact on public service.
Clovechok got in touch with McCormick as well as Golden’s Mayor Ron Oszust and Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz to ask if they’d heard of these changes, and to his shock they had not.
“They had made this decision basically in a vacuum without any consultation whatsoever, and that just blew my mind,” Clovechok said.
He then reached out to Adrian Dix, BC Minister of Health, to request a meeting with himself and the three mayors and Dix agreed. The meeting was held July 6, giving Clovechok and the three mayors the opportunity to outline their concerns, firstly that they had been completely left out of the decision-making process and secondly that the impact of the decision on the community and its constituents hadn’t been considered.
“It was a good meeting, it was a frank, open discussion,” Clovechok said. “So obviously we’re very pleased now that the 22 stations that were effected, Kimberley being one of them, that was previously identified in that collective agreement are now going to be converted to 24/7 alpha stations.
“We look at this as a real victory first of all for the ambulance service, the women and men there work incredibly hard and need to be treated and paid what they’re worth and that’s a real victory. But more so it’s a victory for our constituents is that their healthcare and their health outcomes are going to be better taken care of by this decision, so we’re glad that we were able to play a role in it.”
McCormick said that he’s learned a great deal about how complicated the structure within the ambulance service is, and the original union contract agreement goes back to 2019.
“I really appreciate the fact that this has been a little meandering by necessity, not necessarily by choice. I’m just thrilled that we were able to get to a successful outcome,” he said.
Clovechok said the goal is for the service changes to be implemented by October 29.
“In our business it’s always nice to be able to affect policy that has positive effects on the people that hired you and I can’t thank Mayor McCormick enough and the other two mayors and we got the message across, as did many other across the province,” he said. “And to the credit of the Minister he listened.”
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