Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)

After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

After a night of un-staffed ambulances and 911 call response times of up to an hour in Metro Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 19, the ambulance union went public, calling on the BC Ambulance Service to do better.

It was the urban area that hit a breaking point, but Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia president Troy Clifford said the system is strained across the province, especially in the Kootenays and northern B.C.

The first five to 10 minutes in a medical emergency are critical for the best chance of positive outcomes, Clifford said.

BC Emergency Health Services which runs the ambulance and dispatch system in B.C. said in an emailed statement that staffing levels are stable overall, with the Friday night delays caused by a combination of higher than average calls that night, general increased calls relating to the opioid crisis and COVID-19, and some paramedics booking time off that night.

The ambulance service said the only calls with a one-hour wait time were less critical calls, but that life-threatening symptoms were still prioritized.

“Our median response time for these most critical “purple” and “red” calls in Vancouver and area on Friday was 10:03 and 9:14 minutes respectively,” COO Darlene MacKinnon said.

Clifford points at the BC Ambulance Service, saying they wait until a vacancy exists before posting the job, leading to delays in filling positions.

“Those are capacity issues, those are system issues that should not be holding up getting care to people.”

Hiring delays coupled with what Clifford says is a non-existent recruitment and retention strategy have culminated in February being the worst month yet for staffing shortages.

About three-quarters of the province is served by on-call paramedics who earn $2/hr when they’re on call, $15/hr on standby, and only get their full paramedic pay when they’re on an actual ambulance call.

On average, new paramedics put in four to five years as an on-call, part-time employee before getting a chance at a full-time job. For many, it’s unsustainable. In smaller regions, where new recruits often end up, the call volume is low to the point that they don’t make a living wage.

“We haven’t done a very good job of enticing people because we don’t have a lot to offer them in this model we have,” Clifford said.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Healthcare and Medicine

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

Just Posted

Downed trees account for the majority of power outages, according to BC Hydro, which plans to spend more money on tree pruning and hazardous tree removal in coming years in the face of changing weather and growing patterns caused by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the City of Langford)
BC Hydro says safety guides tree removal policy

Crown corporation says it will work with property owners wherever possible

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amount from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Summer camps held by SEAPARC in Sooke and by West Shore Parks and Recreation are gearing up for a playful season. (SEAPARC photo)
Sooke, West Shore summer camps prepping to welcome youngsters

Registration opening for both day and week-long camps

Sidney council approved a broad package of tax relief measures, but concerns about its timing and effectiveness remain. (Black Press Media File).
President of cannabis company considers legal action against Sidney

Sidney already lost one legal action by another cannabis retailer in summer 2020

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Most Read