Parksville councillor looking to get fire departments paid for medical calls

Parksville councillor looking to get fire departments paid for medical calls
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Parksville councillor Sean Wood brought forward a motion this week that aims to compensate fire departments for answering medical calls.

The three-page motion was unanimously endorsed by Parksville councillors during a Jan. 15 meeting. The motion would establish a remuneration system for BC fire departments that provide services under the Emergency Medical Assistant First Responder program.

Currently, there is no remuneration policy under the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) system.

“We find that fire departments across the province [are] picking up slack for medical calls, and here in Parksville, that increase from our fire chief is 25.35 per cent of the total call volume in 2023,” said Wood in an interview with CHEK News.

Wood adds that fire departments are not mandated to pick up medical calls, but he understands that medical departments often require help.

“Obviously, I don’t blame the men and women who drive the ambulances, I think they need more staff and a better system to keep up their calls,” said Wood.

A rise in homelessness, the drug crisis, high proportion of seniors, and weather-related emergencies are cited as reasons for a higher demand in medical service in his motion.

The details are yet to be decided, but Wood says fire departments would ideally be compensated based on the percentage of medical calls taken by personnel each year.

“Those stats would just be translated somehow into a number that would probably be set from the province and compensated back to the municipal government and would be going into the fire department budgets,” he said.

Wood, who was a volunteer firefighter at Parksville for five years, says he saw the need for better funding for fire departments.

“Because municipal governments depend on volunteers to show up to deliver the services… a lot of governments still rely on volunteer or paid on-call men and women to do the job,” said the councillor.

The motion would help pay for basic life support supplies, oxygen masks, PPE, and other medical items.

Similar resolutions had been brought up to the Union of BC Municipalities in 2023, which were endorsed.

Wood says he plans to bring the resolution forward to the Regional District of Nanaimo for approval on Jan. 23 and will also submit it to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) for consideration at the 2024 AVICC convention.

AVICC previously endorsed a motion last year to improve funding and staffing levels at BCEHS so that local governments aren’t overburdened.

“Resolutions are just one kind of tool that we can use to advocate to the province,” said Wood.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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