Wednesday, March 24, 2021

When you call 911 due to a medical emergency, who should respond? Paramedical services in BC under pressure.

When I was elected to Langley City Council, I learned quickly about one of the long-standing issues between the provincial government and municipalities. This long-standing issue is what level of service should someone expect when they call 911 due to a medical emergency. Over the decades, municipalities have noted that the BC Ambulance Service (now BC Emergency Health Services) response times have increased overall. Because of increased response times, when people call 911, the call-taker can dispatch fire service first responders.

The number of medical calls directed to fire services has skyrocketed over the years. In 2000, Langley City Fire Rescue Service attended 116 calls. In recent years, they attend thousands of calls per years.

Fire services are funded by municipal property tax, while the provincial government funds ambulance services.

The provincial government has consistently stated that municipalities can choose whether they want to have fire service first responders attend medical calls. Would you like to live in a city where first responders do not attend medical calls? Most municipalities have an agreement with BC Emergency Health Services to attended medical calls.

Municipalities have asked the provincial government to compensate municipalities when fire service first responders attend medical calls. The provincial government believes that fire service response to medical calls is optional. Both the BC Liberal and NDP governments have said they will not compensate municipalities.

The provincial government created the BC Ambulance Service in the 1970s to provide a consistent, timely, and professional service for all British Columbians, no matter where they lived. Depending on where you live in BC today, you could receive a different level of emergency medical service when you call 911.

Recently, BC Emergency Health Services updated when they would dispatch fire service first responders to medical calls as part of their “Clinical Response Model.” This model reduced the number of calls fire service first responders attend.

Some Metro Vancouver mayors recently called for the provincial government to increase the types of calls that fire service first responder attend. This request is due to the chronic understaffing and underfunding of the BC Ambulance Service.

All British Columbians should have access to a consistent, professional, and timely response when calling 911 for a medical emergency. The provincial government should ensure that BC Emergency Health Services can respond to medical calls promptly. Where you live shouldn’t dictate the quality of medical service you receive.

Even with an adequately funded ambulance service, fire service first responders still provide critical, time-sensitive medical services in urban centres. The provincial government should compensate municipalities for fire service medical services.

At a public meeting on Monday, Langley City Council asked our staff to prepare a discussion paper on paramedical services in Langley City. This paper will help form the official public position for our community.

No comments: