Island Health rural and remote communities get more ambulance services

Island Health rural and remote communities get more ambulance services

Residents in 16 communities on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands will now have access to more ambulance services in line with a provincial conversion plan to enhance 911 responsiveness and provide reliable out-of-hospital care.

The BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (CUPE 873) worked together to help transition services from the “scheduled on-call” (SOC) model to one of three new models that will support available, staffed ambulances in rural and remote communities.

“In our many discussions with community leaders, we heard how critically important paramedic services are to them,” said Leanne Heppell, BCEHS’ chief ambulance officer.

“These improved paramedic staffing models and the increase in full-time and regular part-time positions together with the changes we are making to enhance community paramedicine services are an exciting investment in the health and well-being of our patients in rural and remote British Columbia.”

New staffing models

Three improved paramedic staffing models – 24/7 Alpha, Mix Shift, and On-Call (Kilo) models have been introduced on April 1, 2024 to enhance ambulance services for each of the 60 communities in the Island Health region.

The 24/7 Alpha model covers three communities, including Gabriola Island, Gold River and Quadra Island with full-time ambulance stations. Under this model, each station has eight full-time positions, with paramedics on duty 24 hours a day; an upgrade from the previous SOC model with paramedics in the station on duty for only eight hours a day, and 16 hours on call.

Communities transitioned to 24/7 Alpha are:

  • Gabriola Island
  • Gold River
  • Quadra Island
  • Boston Bar
  • Bowen Island
  • Bella Coola
  • Maderia Park
  • Clinton
  • Logan Lake
  • Lumby
  • Alexis Creek
  • Midway
  • Fruitvale
  • Salmo
  • McBride
  • Mackenzie
  • Village of Daajing Giids
  • Masset
  • Dease Lake
  • Fraser Lake
  • Tumbler Ridge
  • Rossland (upgraded from Mix Shift model in December 2023


Twelve communities have been upgraded to the Mix Shift model, which has staff on an in-station duty 16 hours a day, and eight hours on call (pager) at night. These communities include:

  • Alert Bay
  • Mayne Island
  • Pender Island
  • Port Renfrew
  • Galiano Island
  • Sayward
  • Ucluelet
  • Cortes Island
  • Denman Island
  • Port Alice
  • Bella Bella
  • Texada
  • Tahsis
  • Anahim Lake
  • Lytton
  • Elkford
  • Greenwood
  • Kaslo
  • New Denver
  • Riondel
  • Winlaw
  • Granisle
  • Southside
  • Hudson’s Hope
  • Sointula (upgraded from on-call Kilo model in December 2023)

The community of Zeballos is also benefiting from the On-Call (Kilo) model with a full-time paramedic unit chief and staff that are on-call. This model offers more flexible staffing options to maximize local recruitment, according to BCEHS. It also leverages the latest collective agreement with paramedics, which increased the on-call rate from $2 per hour to $12 per hour.

Communities under this model include:

  • Zeballos
  • Seton Portage
  • Gold Bridge
  • Blue River
  • Edgewood
  • Field
  • Bear Lake
  • Wells
  • Stewart
  • Port Clements
  • Kitwanga
  • Sandspit
  • Atlin

Largest primary care paramedics recruitment

The transformation to the new models represents one of the single largest recruitments of primary care paramedics in BCEHS history.

To help with their recruiting efforts, BCEHS created a dedicated talent acquisition team with 32 permanent staff as well as temporary support staff. A proactive recruitment team with five Indigenous recruiters was also created to focus on bringing more Indigenous paramedics into the BCEHS.

Together with APBC (CUPE Local 873), BCEHS worked  closely with the 60 communities to determine the best staffing model for each and to bring forward recommendations to the Ministry of Health. This work included engagement with staff, the communities, First Nations leaders and health authorities.

“The conversion of 60 ambulance stations across the province to more effective service delivery models that respond to each of these 60 communities’ unique needs provides more equitable access to care for people living in rural and remote communities, and better compensation and work environments for paramedics, particularly those who already live and work in these communities,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

Alongside staffing conversions, there were also some changes that have been made to paramedic positions to align with the needs of the community.

At least 55 standalone positions (55.2 full-time equivalent positions) will focus on delivering community-based care and outreach services, which will no longer be automatically integrated into the 911 emergency response. However, they will respond to potentially life-threatening 911 calls if they are the nearest available unit, along with regular ambulance resources providing support.

Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Jason Jackson believes the new approach will help in recruiting and retaining paramedics to work in these smaller communities, improving how they respond to 911 calls, and most importantly helping paramedics provide better care of patients.

The changes are being welcomed by many community leaders.

“Having advocated for the improved resources that come with the SOC change, I am glad to see them being put into place,” said Area A director for the Regional District of Mount Waddington Michelle Pottage. “I am looking forward to the next steps and improved paramedic resources for Sointula and the North Island.”

BCEHS will continue working closely with partners to address future needs of communities and make changes as needed.

“This will give people living in rural and remote areas the peace of mind of knowing that they can access vital services when they need them,” added Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid-Island Pacific Rim.

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