B.C. paramedic staffing now ‘critical’ as ambulance wait times reach 2 hours: union

VANCOUVER — B.C.’s paramedics union says staffing levels across the province are now “critical,” causing ambulances to sit empty and wait times to balloon.

President of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. Troy Clifford said this past weekend was “the worst of the last couple of weeks,” with about 30 ambulances unstaffed Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in Metro Vancouver.

“Some emergency calls were waiting up to two hours for response time, just because no ambulances to send,” Clifford said in an interview with CTV News.

It’s not the first time the union has raised concerns about staff shortages. Just last week Clifford warned wait times had reached one hour for some emergency calls and more than two dozen ambulances were left empty. They’re calling on their management to acknowledge the problem, and work with them to find solutions to filling vacancies and recruiting.

In response, at the time, B.C. Emergency Health Services Chief Operating Officer Darlene MacKinnon issued a statement, calling staffing levels in the Lower Mainland “stable overall, with no major recruitment issues,” adding, “we can absolutely assure the public we are getting to critical patients.”

Clifford says that claim is wrong and it “doesn’t support the people out there doing the work.”

CTV News has reached out to B.C. Emergency Health Services again, but has yet to hear back.

Across B.C., paramedics respond to up to 1,700 calls a day, most in the Lower Mainland. Clifford fears if the staffing issues are not addressed soon, one of those calls may go unanswered.

“We really do not want to see a tragic situation or a delay of a response to someone in their time of need or emergency, that’s not what paramedics do, that’s not what dispatchers do,” he said. “We all got into this business to look after our patients.” 

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