B.C. Liberals jeopardize patient safety with new ambulance plan

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VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberals are putting patients at risk by making major changes without consultation to the way B.C. Ambulance responds to 9-1-1 calls, say the B.C. New Democrats.

“Sweeping changes were made to the way ambulance paramedics respond to 9-1-1 calls without any consultation with paramedics, firefighters or municipal leaders,” said New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy. “Because of these changes to emergency dispatching, public safety is now at risk and municipalities are being forced to deal with the downloading of costs and responsibility.”

Last October, B.C. Ambulance Service changed the way it responded to emergency calls and implemented a new policy that reduced the number of urgent medical calls that paramedics respond to with lights and sirens. Since the policy was introduced, patients in many municipalities have been faced with increased wait times as firefighters respond to inappropriately downgraded calls only to have to call and subsequently wait for paramedics to arrive.

A report to Vancouver city council showed that in January, a woman with head trauma and a possible skull fracture had to wait over 20 minutes for paramedics to arrive because the call was inappropriately downgraded based on the new policy, and that same month a teenager with an abdominal injury had to wait almost an hour before paramedics arrived.

“This new plan is worsening wait times for many critically-ill patients,” said Darcy. “Clearly something isn’t working and the minister of health needs to step up and commit to re-evaluating the effectiveness of this flawed plan.”