BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), which oversees the BC Ambulance Service, has issued a statement about the ambulance station staffing in Ashcroft.
The statement comes after two highly-publicized incidents in July and August where Ashcroft residents found in cardiac distress had to wait half-an-hour before an ambulance arrived. In both cases, Ashcroft Fire Rescue was asked to attend while the ambulances were en route.
The statement notes that until October 2021, Ashcroft had two ambulances at the station, which were staffed by one full-time paramedic and casual on-call paramedics who were recruited from Ashcroft and the surrounding area. These paramedics covered shifts on the two ambulances 24/7, supported by the one full-time paramedic unit chief.
In November 2021, BCEHS expanded the full-time ambulance staffing across the province. As a result, the Ashcroft station was increased to nine full-time positions.
“I am very encouraged by the commitment of our senior leadership and the Ministry of Health in making significant changes to our staffing model that has created a more sustainable career path for paramedics in rural and remote communities,” says BCEHS Clinical Operations District Manager Brian Silvester.
“Although we are currently facing some staffing challenges through this period of transition, the end result will be a stronger and more robust workforce in rural communities across the province. We are eager to hire local community members who are interested in pursuing a dynamic career as a paramedic.”
Ashcroft still has two ambulances: one 24/7 Alpha ambulance staffed by regular full-time paramedics, and one Kilo ambulance which is staffed by on-call employees. There are currently eight regular full-time positions and one “irregular” paramedic position in Ashcroft. Three regular full-time vacant positions have recently been filled, with the paramedics scheduled to arrive to start work in Ashcroft in early October.
The “irregular” paramedic position is vacant, and a posting has gone up to fill it. The Community Paramedic position in Ashcroft is also open, and recruitment is underway.
The expansion of the number of full-time positions meant that many staff who had previously been in on-call positions moved from them to take full-time work, in Ashcroft and around the province. Unlike the on-call positions, the full-time work provides paramedics with a regular work schedule, guaranteed wages, full benefits, and vacation time.
On-call paramedics within the Ashcroft station continue to support the scheduling and call-out work on the second car. They also access vacant work on the first ambulance when absences or leaves occur that cannot be filled by the full-time staff.
However, the statement notes that the transition to this new staffing model has been challenging, as the ambulance service has exhausted its on-call work force in many areas as personnel have moved to full-time positions around the province. The new staffing model that came into effect in November 2021 will provide long-term stability to the province’s ambulance stations once BCEHS can recruit to, and fill, the new positions and back-fill the number of casual on-call paramedics around the province.
“We are working hard to improve our staffing capacity in Ashcroft, and have additional staff joining our team here in the coming weeks,” says BCEHS Clinical Operations Executive Director Mike Michalko. “Our paramedics are dedicated, compassionate, and professional, and they have been working long hours to meet the increased demand for our services in communities across the province.
“It’s been a very challenging few years and our system has been under considerable pressure. We are conducting local recruitment efforts and anyone interested in a career in paramedicine is asked to contact us at email@example.com.”
Efforts are underway to recruit new paramedics from the local community. BCEHS has been experiencing some staffing challenges, and since last year, in partnership with the government of BC, has made significant changes and investments to improve and stabilize staffing.
Since 2021, BCEHS has added more than 500 new full-time and part-time permanent paramedic positions in rural and remote areas, and at least 125 in urban areas. Approximately 76 per cent of all permanent positions at BCEHS are filled, and there is a national recruitment campaign underway to fill vacant positions.
BCEHS has also added 42 new dispatch positions to increase the capacity in dispatch, and 22 new ambulances. Of the 22 ambulances announced, nine have already been deployed, with the remainder slated for deployment by the end of 2022.
In 2021/2022, the Ashcroft ambulance station received 329 calls for service. In 2019/2020 it received 339 calls, and in 2020/2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it received 292 calls.