After the heatwave that killed 800 - BC hires hundreds of new paramedics
Vancouver and Western Canada were in the center of the world´s news flow a few days in June/July: Parts of the province of British Columbia had almost 50 degrees celsius ( up to 120 F) for several days in a row and more than 800 people died from heat related injuries that week.
A severely understaffed ambulance system had thousands of residents wait for up to several hours for emergency calls. Hospitals were full and were turning some people away when residents took matters in their own hands and drove their elderly loved ones to care facilities themselves.
Paramedics and 911 staff were almost in tears when interviewed in radio and TV the days following the heatwave. In the views of the unions, the situation had been entirely preventable; the problem with understaffing of the ambulances, specially in the interior country side of the province, had allegedly been the center of the union´s fight for a decade or more.
Almost 600 more paramedics added in historical hiring push
This week, at a news conference on September 14, health minister Adrian Dix announced that 24 ambulance stations will be converted from on-call paramedic staffing to 24/7 stations with eight full-time paramedics, resulting in 177 total positions. Communities benefiting from this are both on the lower mainland (Greater Vancouver area) and on Vancouver Island
26 smaller more stations have moved to or will move to a scheduled on-call staffing model that will bring more regular paramedic jobs.
The province is also looking to hire 85 new full-time paramedics to be spread across the greater Vancouver region, Kamloops and Prince George. They will also hire 30 new full-time dispatchers. Dix said that the province is in the process of filling those positions currently.
This is in addition to the 295 positions posted by the BC Emergency Health Services in July after the province faced criticism for high ambulance wait times during the heatwave in late June.
According to local media, this is historically the single largest hiring push for paramedics in the history of the province.
Map illustration (Above) European Space Agency
Credits: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO