The Burns Lake ambulance station is one of six in northern B.C. where enough full time permanent paramedics will be hired so that there will be someone at the station 24 hours a day, seven days a week to staff one of its ambulances.
Eight paramedics will be needed to ensure the around the clock presence in Burns Lake with the same number also being required at Houston, Vanderhoof, Chetwynd, Fort St James and Fort Nelson to switch all stations to what’s called Alpha status.
One of the paramedics will also be the station’s unit chief and the positions are to be filled by a combination of local on-call paramedics already based at the station and applicants from other places.
The collective agreement between paramedics and BCEHS sets out details of how positions are staffed in terms of local and provincial applicants.
Other station ambulances will continue to be staffed by on-call paramedics and these paramedics will also be needed provide holiday coverage and other time off for the full time paramedics, said Shannon Miller from the BC Emergency Health Services.
Recruiting for the positions began last month with the goal of converting to 24/7 coverage by the end of October.
“We have had no issues filling hundreds of positions already this year, across B.C. This is an opportunity for our current paramedics to have long-term work, with benefits and predictable schedules,” said Miller.
There will continue to be a part time community paramedic in Burns Lake.
Details about the expanded coverage are now emerging after a blanket announcement was made by health minister Adrian Dix in July.
Local governments of smaller B.C. communities for years have been pushing for ambulance service improvements.
Staffing levels at smaller ambulance stations have relied heavily on part time, on call paramedics but the level of pay — $2 an hour while waiting to be called out — was widely regarded as insufficient for someone to consider employment as a paramedic.
The BCEHS did propose what it called “scheduled on call” of regular shifts and full pay at some stations in that paramedics would be at the station for eight hours and on call for the remaining 16 hours a day over a three-day rotation.
But because they would not be physically at the station for 16 hours a day, there were worries about a longer response time when called out.
Four of the “scheduled on call” shifts will be brought in at the Southside ambulance station.
“This is different than existing positions where paramedics put in for the shifts they are available to work, on call in the station, or on pager,” said Miller.
In addition to the Southside, “scheduled on call” will be brought in at ambulance stations in Granisle, Atlin, Dease Lake, Bear Lake, Hudson’s Hope, Mackenzie, McBride, Port Clements on Haida Gwaii, Stewart and Wells. Each will have four of those positions.