B.C. paramedics union to lobby for better health care services, mental health supports

B.C. paramedics union to lobby for better health care services, mental health supports
The Ambulance Paramedics of BC-CUPE873 will be in Victoria May 7-9 to advocate for better healthcare services.

Representatives of the paramedics union in B.C. will be in Victoria this week to lobby for improved paramedic services and mental health supports for their members.

“We have a real opportunity to bridge a lot of healthcare gaps in BC, and we’re hoping to expand our Community Paramedic program into bigger, metropolitan areas,” says Jason Jackson, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC – CUPE 873.

Just a month ago, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and the APBC (CUPE 873) worked together to provide more ambulance services to residents in 16 communities on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

READ ALSO: Island Health rural and remote communities get more ambulance services

New staffing models and an increase in full-time and regular part-time positions were some of the changes that have been implemented in rural and remote British Columbia.

“It’s time to bring these changes into larger cities where many people fail to get the healthcare support they need,” Jackson adds.

“We’re talking about being active in preventative care, harm reduction and helping those who don’t always want to go to the hospital. We can launch this quickly and make a difference almost immediately,” he said.

The plan is to deploy community paramedics to high-need areas where they have the biggest impact. These units can also offer senior support and outreach work in conjunction with other pre-existing services.

Along with augmenting paramedic services in bigger cities, APBC is also seeking to improve access to mental health and wellness supports for their members.

Brad Mitchell, BCEHS clinical operations director for southern Vancouver Island, told CHEK News first responders are consistently put into traumatic scenarios.

“Most people are phoning in their dire need for help,” Mitchell said.

Ian Tait, with APBC, added many members face debilitating mental health struggles like PTSD.

“Mental health injuries or occupational stress inquired surpassed physical injuries,” Tait said.

He explained the union has been working on adding supports like counselling, programs for families and teaming up with organizations to help provide service dogs to those off work with a stress injury.

The union will be asking the province to bring in an online resource which allows members to easily access supports in a timely manner.

“BCEHS is looking to become a member of PSPnet, which is an online resource that offers frontline safety workers access to clinical counsellors in a timely fashion. This program is very successful and has a very high success rate,” Jackson said.

Tait said the sooner members can access treatment and support, the less time they are going to be off work.

“Then we get them back into the workplace sooner being able to provide care to patients,” he added.

Paramedics are there for people on their worst days. It’s a tough job for the 3,000 BC Ambulance Service paramedics and 5,000 emergency medical-call takers, dispatchers and other professionals who respond to 911 calls.

The Ambulance Paramedics of BC – CUPE 873 will be in Victoria from May 7 to 9 for their annual lobby days, meeting with MLA’s to advocate for better healthcare services for B.C. residents.

“They are coming over to talk about that and I’m looking forward to it,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said.

Harry CorroHarry Corro
Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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