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

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynaecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Essie Boelema, a 17-year-old lavender farmer, is passionate about the plant. (Screenshot/Special to The Star)
VIDEO: Langley lavender growers say season soon to be in full bloom

Family-owned farm marks five years by preparing for a summer of sales, tours, and growth

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

Work was underway on the interior of the new Tennis Centre location in Langley. Popularity of the sport has risen during the pandemic (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Tennis business expands into Langley

‘Busiest we’ve ever been’ says manager

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Most Read