BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) has announced three new paramedic positions and an additional ambulance for the City of Trail.
The announcement comes after months of analysis into how to improve ambulance services in the Trail region as part of the BCEHS Action Plan for the province.
The increase in staffing to seven full-time paramedics will mean the Trail station will operate two dedicated ambulances, plus an additional ambulance operating during peak daytime hours.
Current on-call resources will be maintained in Trail as well as in Rossland, Fruitvale and Salmo.
BCEHS says one of the reasons Trail was targeted as an area needing improvement was because of the high volume of inter-facility patient transfers in and out of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).
Each week on average BCEHS transfers 20 patients into the Trail hospital and 25 patients out of the hospital to other locations. Nearly 75 per cent of the Trail station’s workload is currently patient transfers.
While any additional services in one town indirectly improve services in neighbouring communities, at least one Castlegar city councilor is disappointed that the announcement didn’t include an additional ambulance for Castlegar.
“Why do they want to put the extra people and extra ambulance at the end of the region — they are not centralizing it,” says Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “It is not really meeting our needs or what we had thought was coming to us.”
Castlegar residents have long complained about the wait times for an ambulance, especially when they are being sent from the Castlegar Health Centre to KBRH for emergency treatments or tests not available in Castlegar, including hospital admissions.
Heaton-Sherstibitoff says she’s pleased that the City of Trail will see improved services, but wishes that there had been an announcement for Castlegar as well.
She says it’s not fair Trail has seven full-time paramedic positions, when Castlegar only has four, despite a larger population.
“I am disappointed for our residents. As a growing population, we deserve more than what we have,” added Heaton-Sherstibitoff.
She also points out that both Trail and Nelson have 24-hour full service hospitals and Castlegar only has a 12-hour emergency room with limited services.
In March, BCEHS announced that some of the part-time and on-call hours at the Castlegar ambulance station would be converted into three full-time paramedic positions — raising the number of full-time Castlegar positions from one to four. Castlegar was also given one community paramedicine position.
“Paramedic services are an increasingly important part of our integrated health care system,” said Linda Lupini, executive vice president of BCEHS. “By increasing the number of full-time paramedics available in the Trail area, BCEHS can better support the needs of patients and respond to the most urgent 9-1-1 calls faster.”
Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West said, “The residents of Trail are pleased to welcome these new paramedic positions to the community. Having additional dedicated emergency services will improve patient care in the Trail area where high call volumes can affect emergency coverage and response times. These additions also mean more skilled jobs for the region, and better services for our aging and growing population throughout the West Kootenay region.”
As per the BCEHS collective agreement with the paramedic’s union, two of the new positions will be filled by locals already working in the area and one position will be open for anyone in the province. Positions will be posted within the next week and filled by September.
Back in the spring, Castlegar News undertook a six- week investigative series on pre-hospital services in the province, particularly in rural areas. All of the stories can be found at castlegarnews.com/tag/critical-condition-investigation.