Premier John Horgan says British Columbia has made a “significant investment” in rural and remote ambulance services, including ground and air transportation options, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says the government is working with firefighters as well as the paramedics union to ensure first responders have adequate training so they are able to act quickly during what he called “extraordinarily challenging times.”
Horgan’s comments come after an infant in Barriere reportedly died waiting for an ambulance, prompting Mayor Ward Stamer to call for flexibility around which first responders are allowed to take patients to hospital.
Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of BC, has said his organization would continue to address what he called a “provincewide staffing crisis.”
Clifford says the staffing woes have left communities like Barriere without appropriate ambulance coverage for long periods of time.
Horgan told reporters Tuesday that the ambulance service is reviewing the circumstances that led to the reported death of the infant, and that his “heart goes out to the family who are grieving the loss of a child.”
Stamer said Barriere, B.C., has a first responders’ society with a vehicle that can respond when the BC Ambulance Service can’t, but they’re not allowed to transport patients to hospital.
He said that has to change as the community grapples with gaps in service that mean first responders might not be available when someone calls 911.
In an interview on Monday, the mayor said he hadn’t been told how long it took paramedics to respond to the call about the infant last Thursday.
He could not provide details of what happened, saying only that there had been a “critical care incident” involving a young child who died.
Stamer said all he knows is based on what Clifford told media — that there had been a fully staffed vehicle in Barriere, but it was diverted south to help in Kamloops.
There’s normally one ambulance in Barriere and two in Clearwater, about 60 kilometres north, but they’re shared throughout the region, Stamer said.
“From what I understand, there was only one car for all of Kamloops on that Thursday night, and that is why ours was taken from us,” he said.