B.C. ambulance paramedics have been working without a union contract since April 1, 2019. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. paramedics get employment stability in new union contract

‘Rural paramedicine’ offers house calls, increase in full-time work

B.C.’s ambulance paramedics have received hundreds of new positions and additional stability for working in rural areas in a new three-year agreement with the province, their union says.

Paramedics and dispatchers completed ratification of the contract this week after lengthy negotiations produced a tentative deal in July. It is retroactive to April 1, when the previous contract ran out, and includes the NDP government’s standard general wage settlement of two-per-cent pay increases in each year.

The big change is in implementing “rural paramedicine,” an approach begun by the previous government in 2017, where part-time and on-call paramedics get full-time work that includes house calls and work with residential care facilities in smaller communities.

“This new collective agreement introduces perhaps the most significant changes our workplace has ever seen in a single period of bargaining,” said Cameron Eby, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. (CUPE 873). “We’re now on a path to create regular, family-supporting paramedics jobs in every community in B.C., while ensuring reliable emergency coverage for our patients.”

Rural paramedicine started as a pilot project in Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Hardy, Cortes Island, Fort St. James, Hazelton, Chetwynd, Creston and Princeton in the spring of 2017. It has been implemented in 70 communities, where hiring and retaining on-call or part-time paramedics has been difficult.

RELATED: B.C. communities call for better use of first responders

CRITICAL CONDITION: Series examines Kootenay 9-1-1 response

After the NDP government took over, Health Minister Adrian Dix established paramedics and dispatchers as a separate union local, to integrate them with care homes and home support for seniors. He said it would also help with B.C.’s response to the opioid overdose crisis.

B.C. Emergency Health Services has also introduced a new dispatch protocol for 9-1-1 calls that has proven controversial in some communities. Implemented in response to a rise in non-emergency calls such as vehicle accidents with no injuries, it allows dispatchers to prioritize available ambulances, and lets paramedics treat and release patients instead of taking everyone to a hospital emergency.

Fraser Lake and Central Kootenay Regional District sent resolutions to last week’s municipal convention, arguing that the change takes already thin ambulance coverage away from rural communities to meet demand in urban centres. They called for more use of volunteer firefighters and rescue societies to respond to calls.

Communities receiving rural paramedicine service:

• Island Health region: Alert Bay, Cortes Island, Denman Island (including Hornby Island), Gabriola Island, Galiano Island, Gold River, Mayne Island, Pender Island, Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port Renfrew, Port McNeil, Quadra Island, Sayward, Sointula, Tahsis, Tofino, Ucluelet, Zeballos

• Northern Health region: Atlin, Chetwynd, Dease Lake, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, Granisle, Haida Gwaii, Hazelton, Houston, Hudson Hope, MacKenzie, McBride, Kitwanga, Southside, Stewart, Tumbler Ridge, Valemount, Wells

• Interior Health region: Alexis Creek, Anahim Lake, Blue River, Clearwater, Clinton, Creston, Edgewood, Elkford, Field, Fruitvale, Gold Bridge, Golden, Greenwood, Kaslo. Keremeos. Lillooet, Logan Lake, Lumby, Lytton, Midway, Nakusp, New Denver, Princeton, Revelstoke, Riondel, Rossland, Salmo, Seton Portage, Sicamous, Sparwood, Winlaw

• Vancouver Coastal region: Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Bowen Island, Madiera Park, Texada Island


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CrossFit Vernon celebrates a decade of community

For 10 years, CrossFit Vernon has been supporting their community

Water draws Vernon artists together for exhibit

Gallery Vertigo open house Saturday for Spirit of Water

Lake Country Food Bank camera stolen

Silver Ford crew cab seen taking equipment from social service agency

Okanagan highlanders dance in support of kids, food banks

A nationwide virtual dance-a-thon will garner donations for Food Bank Canada and Kids Help Phone

Central Okanagan residents invited to give input on regional transport plan

The plan will help Central Okanagan governments work together to connect people and places across the region

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Merritt man arrested after allegedly touching children inappropriately

Skylar Mcleod, 24, is facing six charges, including one for sexual interference

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Alberta man’s body recovered from Okanagan Lake after five-day search

‘The depth of the water, as well as the topography of the lake, made the recovery of the deceased very challenging’ - RCMP

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services

Masks urged for some students returning to Vernon schools

Phase two sees students return full-time Sept. 8

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Most Read