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VANCOUVER – A secret provincial government document that outlines plans to increase BC Ambulance Service response times will inevitably lead to patient deaths if implemented, say the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, CUPE Local 873.

And the Ambulance Paramedics are asking why Gordon Campbell has reversed his position from 1997 when he denounced Ambulance Service delays after the tragic death of a young girl who died while waiting for an ambulance.

Plans in the document, released yesterday by the Hospital Employees’ Union, state that “Patient safety could be compromised as response time is increased.”

Increased response times can only have one inevitable result – patients will pay the ultimate price for health care cutbacks to the Ambulance Service,” says Ambulance Paramedics’ president John Strohmaier. “You simply cannot increase response times, cut staff, limit access to ambulance services and not create a situation where some patients will die waiting for help.”

The document also states that the government had intended to eliminate 300 ambulance paramedic positions, a move that Strohmaier says would have had disastrous consequences on emergency health care.

Cutting 300 of our 1,200 positions would mean serious delays in ambulance service in every part of British Columbia,” Strohmaier says. “There is no way that a 25 per cent cut of an already lean ambulance paramedics staff level would not result in patients deaths and delays in treating serious injuries.”

Strohmaier said the Ambulance Paramedics union is concerned that the government may try cutting positions again in the future, noting that the secret documents show the only reason the cuts were not made was because of the union’s contract.

The Ambulance Paramedics are also asking what has changed for Premier Gordon Campbell since June 4, 1997, when the then-Opposition Leader raised his concerns about Ambulance Service delays.

Here is a partial Hansard transcript of Mr. Campbell’s comments from that date:

G. Campbell: We have a public health care system in the province of British Columbia, and the public should be able to expect that the ministry will act on the real information that is given to them by professional health care providers on a regular and timely basis – not just after there’s been a front-page headline talking about a tragedy that’s taken place for a family.

In December of last year the minister was told that our ambulance crews are increasingly being held while beds in emergency are being found for their patients. Things are getting critical; that’s what the minister has been told… .

The fact is that emergency physicians are still complaining about the lack of beds. The fact is that the ambulance service is still being restricted from providing services to people. The question to the minister is this: why does it take two years for the minister to act? Why does it take two years of ignoring the concerns of the public, of professional public servants, until there is a story on the front page of a newspaper, when the minister finally says: “Oh, I might act”? How can anyone have confidence in this minister or her ministry? [Emphasis added]

Gordon Campbell’s concerns were appropriate in 1997 and they are even more appropriate today, when he is in charge of a government making cuts to emergency health care services,” says Strohmaier. “The Premier should re-read his own comments and then stop making cuts to the BC Ambulance Service before it’s too late for other patients.”


For more information contact:
John Strohmaier at 604-273-5722/ cell 604-728-2741 or Stu Myers at 604-273-5722/ cell 604-313-7571