Fernie Council takes B.C. Emergency Health Services up on their offer

Fernie Fire Rescue responding to a structural fire on February 6. - Tamara Hynd
Fernie Fire Rescue responding to a structural fire on February 6.
— image credit: Tamara Hynd

The Fernie Council is taking the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) up on their offer for a briefing session on proposed changes for first responders in the Resource Allocation Plan (RAP). Although the RAP ambulance response changes have already been implemented, the first responder changes have not. The BCEHS is asking local governments for their input before implementing the first responder changes as requested by many municipal fire departments.

Under the Emergency Services Act, the board of BCEHS is responsible for governing all emergency services provided in B.C., including those provided by B.C. Ambulance Service, first responder agencies, B.C. Patient Transfer Network and Trauma Services B.C.

“We take our responsibility to patients and taxpayers seriously,” wrote Wynne Powell, board chair in a letter to Mayor Giuliano dated January 3, 2014. “We are committed to ensuring patient needs come first and using all resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

“We certainly don't want to do anything to reduce service,” said Mayor Mary Giuliano.

Fire Chief Ted Ruiter was present at the January 27 Council meeting. “The question is what level of service do we want to provide here in Fernie in regards to ambulance and our first response service that we give on behalf of Fernie Fire Rescue,” said Ruiter. “They are trying to eliminate the type of calls we go to and in my opinion, I think we really need to take a look at that because ambulance service in Fernie is stretched to say the least. I suggest we take a look at some of the things they are wanting to do and give it some serious thought.”

“At the Union of B.C. Municipalities (conference) there was a lot of discussion around B.C. ambulance service, especially in rural areas,” said Councillor Phil Iddon. “Some people did get up and make some rather serious accusations as to staffing levels, the availability of service, delays and times.

“I think every community has different challenges when it comes to ambulance because of geographics, roads and proximity of other services, so perhaps it would warrant getting feedback on how the changes are in their mind.

"This is all about not duplicating services because they are all stretching their budgets to the nth degree. Some of it's fix wing ambulatory which is very expensive. I think a lot of it is budget driven from the B.C. government service side and they are trying to be held as the good guys in some cases with this so we should get feedback on what is particular to our area and how this will effect that.”


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