RICHMOND - The BC Ambulance Service is in critical condition, say the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, who today released a report detailing extensive delays in Lower Mainland response times that show patients’ lives are being put at risk due to lack of resources.
The BC Ambulance Service is only striving to meet emergency response time targets of less than 9 minutes 70% of the time, compared to 85% of the time back in 1985, a drop of a full 15%, says John Strohmaier president of the Ambulance Paramedics union, CUPE Local 873.
And Strohmaier says the union has documented countless emergency calls in the Lower Mainland where unacceptably slow response times have jeopardized patient safety, including one where a Burnaby patient suffering a cardiac arrest was forced to wait 14 minutes for paramedics who had to respond from New Westminster due to lack of available ambulances. That patient subsequently died.
“Patients in the Lower Mainland and across the province are facing totally unacceptable emergency response times due to a lack of resources for the BC Ambulance Service,” said Strohmaier. “When the BC Ambulance Service can only attempt to meet its targets 70% of the time it means in an emergency far too many British Columbians’ lives are at risk.”
Strohmaier said emergency call volume has increased by 49% from 1996 to 2006 but the provincial government has not met the need to even maintain the percentage of response times achieved in 1985.
“Emergency services are critical with BC’s aging and growing population and yet we are going backwards on response times,” Strohmaier said. “In at least 21 communities the BC Ambulance Service has eliminated full-time positions and there are regularly gaps in coverage.”
“The provincial government needs to restore full-time paramedics, improve ambulance paramedic recruitment and retention and provide the resources British Columbians expect to be available in an emergency,” Strohmaier said. “When lives are at stake, nothing else government does could be more important.”
Strohmaier said paramedics are encountering additional delays because of emergency room overcrowding in BC hospitals, leaving ambulances stuck at the hospital while waiting for patients to be admitted instead of being available for emergency calls.
For more information contact: John Strohmaier 604-273-5722, cell 604-790-0873
B.J. Chute cell 604-218-6169
Bill Tieleman 604-844-7827 or cell 778-896-0964.
For background information go to: www.apbc.ca