EDITORIAL: Calling 911...


What level of service should injured and sick Tri-City residents expect from BC Ambulance and fire services?

That’s at the heart of the issue now being debated as the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) defends a Resource Allocation Plan that has downgraded some medical emergencies from Code 3 to Code 2. Previously, some of these emergencies were attended by ambulance and fire crews, who responded with lights and sirens at speeds above the posted speed limit. Now, only the fire department is responding with this level of service while the ambulance drives at posted speed limits and gets there later.

According to BCEHS, the change in ambulance response time has actually cut the time paramedics get to serious emergencies, which is a good thing, while slightly lengthening the time for some of these Code 2 calls, reducing the potential for accidents — and the change isn’t affecting patient outcome, it says.

But local fire departments tell a different story, saying that some of these calls are taking up to half an hour or longer, and in Coquitlam it was reported that people got so fed up with waiting for an ambulance, they drove a patient to the hospital themselves.

The cities argue this service change is downloading, pure and simple, so that instead of increasing resources to enable ambulances to handle the growing demand for service as the population increases and ages, the province is merely reducing some services to hold the line on costs elsewhere.

But here’s the thing: Should firefighters stop attending these calls, too?

That’s what BCEHS says, arguing that cities should adopt the same level of service, then there wouldn’t be any concerns about downloading.

But this argument ignores the fact that residents pay for and have come to expect a certain level of service, and if firefighters adopt the same service model as the ambulance, the cities will catch heat.

After all, a patient in severe pain may not be dying, but shouldn’t they get a quick response to hospital?

Once again, the cities are saddled with the costs and the responsibilities of a senior level of government. And that’s just painful. Quick, call an ambulance. Wait… don’t bother.


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