Nakusp is set to receive an expansion of emergency health services, with eight full-time paramedics to staff a 24/7 ambulance service.
BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) recently wrote to Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik to notify him of the expansion. He shared that letter with Arrow Lakes News.
The letter states that BCEHS is expanding paramedic resources in the community, as part of the Ministry of Health’s 2020 announcement of funding for the Rural, Remote and Indigenous Framework (RRIF).
“We have been monitoring and listening to feedback from your community and are now taking action,” reads the letter from BCEHS. “After much analysis as well as input from you and other stakeholders, we have made the decision to convert the current staffing model in your community.”
The model will switch from the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) that is currently in place, to a 24/7 Alpha model, which means a fully staffed ambulance, around the clock, with full-time paramedic positions.
“This will create eight more permanent, full-time jobs in your community and will help stabilize paramedic staffing, which in turn will improve responsiveness and emergency coverage,” the letter reads. “This transition will impact the current four regular part-time positions associated with SOC at this ambulance station.”
Zeleznik notes that it will take quite some time to implement these changes, but hails it as a step in the right direction.
The Mayor has been advocating for better services in the area on behalf of the ambulance and paramedic service, as well as the community.
He was one of the presenters at the 2022 Small Talk Forum at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) this week.
Part of the presentation included accounts of residents waiting hours for care and paramedics working alone.
“Over this past long BC Day weekend, Nakusp and New Denver ambulance/paramedic station had only a lone responder at each station and our local fire departments, road rescue and search and rescue were having to pick up the slack,” Zeleznik presented. “So, we put on social media that we recommend when you call for an ambulance to ask how long the response time will be, and then BCEHS will have to make the decision that is best for you or your loved one.”
Another account from July 30 showed that there was no paramedic staff in Nakusp or New Denver that day, as they were timed out, with just one responder scheduled to return at 4:00.
These aren’t the only communities struggling with staffing shortages and ambulance wait times.
Delegates at UBCM called on the provincial government to take action with the health care crisis, passing a special resolution calling for more government support, with emergency rooms across the province facing closures.
According to UBCM background material, hospitals in British Columbia’s Interior have experienced the most emergency room closures in 2022. Hospitals that announced reduced services were closed for more than 16 hours on average, the material states.
In the letter from BCEHS to Zeleznik, the organization explained that Nakusp is one of 31 that will be receiving more permanent, full-time paramedic resources.
“Overall, today’s news means BCEHS is adding 208 full-time positions to the provincial ambulance service in rural areas,” the letter said.
With files from Wolf Depner