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Letter: Provincial government must step up and help its paramedics

Paramedics are getting tired and sick, work book-offs are more frequent, and ambulances are going down as a result, says this paramedic
ambulance MW
North Vancouver's fleet of ambulances, seen here in 2015, were mostly out of commission the weekend of May 29-30 due to a lack of staffing.

Dear Editor:

Re: Acute Paramedic Shortage Hits North Shore, June 4 news story.

Anyone who has been to Lions Gate Hospital lately knows that the problem is far greater than simply a shortage of paramedics. On any given day now, the hospital emergency department is filled to overflowing with patients in beds lining the hallways and waiting rooms; and they wait for hours. The shortage we should be talking about is a shortage of health-care funding overall.

To put things in perspective, there are more North Shore firefighters in their halls on any given night shift than there are LGH emergency physicians, emergency nurses, and North Shore paramedics, combined. You could add RT’s (respiratory techs) and CT’s (cardiac techs) as well, and firefighters would still outnumber all of the above. Simply put: health care doesn’t have the kind of funding that fire departments have. Not even close. We need more hospital beds, doctors, nurses, and yes, paramedics. And when we talk about “paramedics,” we’re talking about people experienced in the field of pre-hospital medicine that can transport patients to the right hospital, for the right kind of treatment and begin some of that treatment en route.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little and fire Chief Brian Hutchison hint that we should consider shifting some of our provincial health-care budget on to the backs of the already overburdened municipalities, by bringing paramedics into the municipal fold. This is nothing short of absurd and harkens back to the pre-1974 days when towns, cities, and municipalities were a piecemeal patchwork of services disconnected from the larger health-care picture. Clearly, both Little and Hutchison have little understanding of health care, and even less of what paramedics actually do; and given the budget constraints and workload that B.C.’s paramedics work under, I would challenge any municipality to provide as good, let alone better, service.

But, like anything, the BC Ambulance Service has to be maintained. And with growing populations and the changing demographics of the community, the service is falling woefully behind. As mentioned, paramedics are getting tired and sick; work book-offs are more frequent, and ambulances are going down as a result. The province has to step up and help its paramedics.

Randy Block
North Shore paramedic