Are two ambulances enough?

Burns Lake will not receive any of the improvements recently announced

The B.C. government is pledging to add paramedics, ambulance dispatch staff and ambulances over the next year across the province, but Burns Lake won’t see any of these improvements.

The province will add 60 more paramedics and 20 ambulance dispatch staff across the province. In addition, there will be six additional ambulances stationed in the Lower Mainland to improve response times, with an unspecified number of additional ambulances in B.C. Interior communities, health minister Terry Lake recently announced.

According to Linda Lupini, executive vice-president of the Provincial Health Services Authority and B.C. Emergency Health Services, when deciding which communities would receive new ambulances and staff, the province considered factors such as the call volume and the number of ambulances currently available.

Burns Lake currently has two ambulances – one ambulance is staffed by paramedics on standby at the ambulance station 24/7, and one ambulance is staffed by on-call paramedics 24/7.

In 2015/2016, Burns Lake had four full-time and 17 part-time staff. The call volume received by the ambulance service in Burns Lake last year was 523 – which is equivalent to approximately 1.43 calls per day.

Houston and Fraser Lake also have two ambulances each. The Southside and Granisle have one ambulance each.

Southside, Granisle and Houston to receive paramedicine program

Although Burns Lake will not see any improvements to its ambulance service, the Southside is one of the communities that will receive the “rural paramedicine” program, which provides non-emergency house calls.

Under this program, paramedics will provide basic health-care services in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes or in the community, in partnership with local health-care providers. The services provided may include checking blood pressure, assisting with diabetic care, helping to identify fall hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluation, and assisting with respiratory conditions.

Granisle, Houston and Fraser Lake will also receive the program.

According to the B.C. Emergency Health Services, most communities selected have ambulance stations with on-call staff. Offering regular part-time employment is an incentive for community paramedics to remain in the community and to continue to be available for on-call emergency response.

“While you’re not on call-outs, you can go into a nursing home and talk with patients,” Health Minister Terry Lake said of the new paramedic roles. “You may be doing CPR training, you may be doing chronic disease management in people’s homes.”

According to Linda Lupini, executive vice-president of the Provincial Health Services Authority and B.C. Emergency Health Services, the main goal of this program is to prevent 9-1-1 calls by monitoring the healthy of seniors, people living with chronic diseases and other conditions.

Rhiannon Davis piloted the community paramedicine in Tofino, and started making home visits between emergency calls six months ago.

“The wellness check on a person’s home could be assessing their blood pressure, monitoring their health status, or assessing fall risks,” Davis explained. “Other things that we do [include] leading a walking group, providing much-needed social and physical activity for people who may not otherwise feel safe to get out and do that by themselves.”

The program is expected to start by December 2017.

– With files from Tom Fletcher