Prince Rupert firefighters underwent week-long intensive emergency medical responder training in late Januray to upgrade their skills to the equivalent of paramedic level one. (K-J Millar/The Northern View photo)

Prince Rupert firefighters underwent week-long intensive emergency medical responder training in late Januray to upgrade their skills to the equivalent of paramedic level one. (K-J Millar/The Northern View photo)

Dispatch firefighters to more medical calls, urge Metro Vancouver mayors

Mayors asking B.C. to expand firefighters’ roll to take pressure off understaffed ambulance service

Ten Metro Vancouver Mayors are asking the province to expand the the range of medical emergencies that firefighters are dispatched to in order to help address paramedic shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis.

In a March 10 letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix, the mayors of Delta, White Rock, Langley City, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, the City of North Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Belcarra and Anmore urged the province to work with local governments to “maximize our resources” and meet emergency medical needs in the province.

“With staffing shortages impacting response times for the BC Ambulance Service, we want to work with the province to ensure public safety and that those most vulnerable and in desperate need of our services have access to it in a timely fashion,” Delta Mayor George Harvie said in a press release.

“We are currently dealing with the dual crises of COVID-19 and the opioid crisis and all we’re asking for is the opportunity to provide effective services for our communities.”

READ MORE: Paramedics feeling the strain of COVID, the opioid crisis, and staffing shortages says union pres (March 9, 2021)

The mayors’ letter noted that many municipal fire departments have implemented emergency medical response protocols, whereby firefighters are trained and licensed to administer an enhanced level of emergency medical care to patients, and cited a recent incident where firefighters were able to respond to a suspected drug overdose within four minutes of receiving the 911 call, while paramedics took 50 minutes to arrive on scene.

The letter also cited a 2019 auditor general report saying better co-ordination and collaboration between provincial and local governments is needed to capitalize on the pool of trained and licensed emergency response personnel to provide critical support for patients until an ambulance arrives, and that improved co-ordination of response would support improvements to patient care.

The mayors’ letter follows a night last month where un-staffed ambulances — 30 of 120 in the region — coupled with higher-than-average call volume and a general increase in calls relating to the opioid crisis and COVID-19 led to wait times of up to an hour, prompting the union representing paramedics and emergency dispatchers in B.C. to go public with the issue.

READ MORE: After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns (Feb. 24, 2021)

Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia president Troy Clifford told Black Press Media earlier this month that recent staffing shortages in Metro Vancouver are some of the worst he has seen in his 33 years in the profession.

“It’s been really tough on the paramedics, and ultimately the patients,” he said.

Clifford said the job is difficult on its own, but the addition of staffing issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis, has resulted in a perfect storm of pressure on these essential front-line medical workers.

“They’re fatigued and exhausted,” he said.

“We know this profession is tough, and there are risks and impacts on our well-being and mental health, but when you add all the additional pressures over and above our regular work, it impacts our ability to respond.”

SEE ALSO: B.C. paramedics worry end of job-share will spark burnout as agreement set to end April 1 (March 11, 2021)

— with files from Zoe Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, and Ronan O’Doherty, Black Press Media



editor@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of White RockDeltafirefightersPitt Meadows

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

Just Posted

The Langley School District has issued another COVID-19 notification for Peter Ewart Middle School. (Langley Schools)
Black Press Media files
Ryan’s Regards: Teachers need far more faith and respect in this day and age

Constant news stories about ‘over-dramatized’ suspensions are creating havoc in the education world

A local cycling enthusiast is urging riders, runners and pedestrians to leave the devices off for their own safety. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
LETTER: Langley man says oblivious walkers, runners and cyclists need to tune out

People with ear buds or headphones often unaware of the dangers around them, letter writer says

Previously, Aldergrove Sea Monkeys swimmers trained while passing one another in the same lane at the ACUCC pool. (Aldergrove Star files)
Aldergrove ‘micromonkeys’ ready to hit the pool

Sea Monkey’s swim club has opened registration for age four and up for lessons May 3 to June 2

Bike events like the 2018 Valley Granfondo in Fort Langley drew thousands of cyclists. (Langley Advance Times files)
Our View: Cycling boom will have long-term implications for Canada

All the people who took to two wheels in the last year will change our politics

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine 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 open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

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

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read