Byron Sketchley

Byron Sketchley

New patient transfer ambulance service starts in Burns Lake

BC Ambulance Service and Northern Health rolled out a new patient transfer service in Burns Lake.

On Jan. 20 2014, the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and Northern Health (NH) rolled out a new patient transfer service in Burns Lake.

Travelling to and from the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (formerly Prince George Regional Hospital) and the Burns Lake ambulance station, the new patient transfer service will mean another option for moving low-risk patients between Prince George, Burns Lake, and points in between.

The ‘low-acuity bus service’ is a joint initiative between NH and BCAS. The customized bus can handle seven patients, including space for two wheelchair-bound patients, and two paramedics. One paramedic will be the driver, and the other will ride with patients to provide medical care if needed.

“Northern Health and BCAS have partnered to launch this innovative service to enhance patient care for those individuals who need non-urgent transport in rural areas, providing greater access to family medical care,” said Mike Michalko, BCAS executive director of rural operations.

The new Monday to Friday run will operate daily except for statutory holidays, departing from Burns Lake with patients in the morning and returning those patients home from Prince George late in the afternoon.

“For the most part, these low-acuity patients don’t require an ambulance but do require care along the route,” Michalko said. “The patients we’re looking to capture here are those requiring medical imaging, MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, lab work, oncology requests, surgical and specialty consults.”

“Those people with urgent medical conditions will continue to be managed as we have in the past,” he added.

There are two things patients and residents in Burns Lake don’t need to worry about.

First, transport will be arranged through regular NH patient transfer channels. Physicians will recommend modes of travel and NH will provide scheduling in conjunction with BCAS. Patients do not need to make arrangements with BCAS for transport on the new bus.

Second, NH and BCAS have increased staffing at the Burns Lake BCAS detachment to accommodate the new service.

“We’ve hired three additional full-time employees into the Burns Lake station to assist with the scheduling and operation of the bus,” Michalko said. “All hires are paramedics and local to Burns Lake.”

With the new paramedics, the Burns Lake ambulance station now has 4 full-time, and 12 part-time paramedics. The BCAS is actively recruiting for new members.

In the past patients who couldn’t make their own arrangements for getting to Prince George were often transferred by ambulance, which meant two paramedics accompanying a patient, as well as taking their services out of the Burns Lake area.

The new low-acuity service will help free paramedics to concentrate on what many see as their primary emergency duties.

“It will help shore up the work… in the Burns Lake area and provide a more stable workforce for both emergency 911 [services], and for the bus service.”

Patients not living on the low acuity transfer bus highway route –  in Fort St. James for example – will be transferred via ambulance to Vanderhoof where they will connect with the bus, on an as-needed basis.