BC says it acting immediately to reinforce ambulance operations by providing funding for 22 new ambulances.
As many as 85 new full-time paramedics, 30 full-time dispatchers will also be hired, and 22 rural ambulance stations will be converted to 24/7 ALPHA stations to enhance ambulance coverage.
Six are scheduled to be running by October 2021, and plans for up to an additional 16 stations will be ready by October 2021.
“When we call for help, we need to know help is on the way, and that it will arrive quickly,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“Immediate action on operations, as well as stronger leadership and increased investment at BC Emergency Health Services, will deliver a more effective ambulance service for patients and families who depend on it.”
To ensure direct leadership of ambulance services, Dix is also reconstituting the BC Emergency Health Services board of directors to focus solely on ambulance services.
It will be directly accountable to the minister with a clear mandate to ensure better service for patients and families who rely on the services — and better supports for workers who deliver the service.
Dix has appointed Jim Chu, former chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department, to chair the board.
“I am enthusiastic to bring what I have learned from my time as chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department to this important role. I look forward to working together with the Ministry of Health, BC Emergency Health Services management, paramedics and dispatchers to ensure the ambulance service provides timely and exceptional help for British Columbians, and that it’s an outstanding employer for workers,” Chu said.
Darren Entwistle, president and CEO, Telus, will serve as a special adviser to the board.
Dix has appointed Leanne Heppell to serve as B.C.’s new chief ambulance officer on an interim basis. She is a trained clinical nurse specialist, currently serving as chief operating officer for acute care and chief of professional practice and nursing at Providence Health Care. Heppell has 20 years experience in senior leadership at Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and the BC Ambulance Service.
To get paramedics and ambulances back on the road to respond to patient calls more quickly, the Province is directing health authorities to add additional staff to receive patients and care for them when they arrive at emergency departments.
BC Emergency Health will also contract a team of mental health and wellness professionals to work directly with dispatch staff and paramedics to address chronic stress, fatigue and support wellness among staff.