As B.C’s ambulance crews approach their busiest season, they are warning the public of a
‘triple threat.’

The union representing the province’s 4,500 ambulance paramedics and medical dispatchers says COVID-19 protocols are going to put even more stress on those living with mental health and addiction issues during the holidays.

It also says emergency care for patients may be impacted due to critically low staffing among paramedics and dispatchers.

Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Troy Clifford says this creates a triple threat for crews who are just trying to do their job.

“Physical, emotional and psychological exhaustion has set in among ambulance paramedics and dispatchers. We are coming onto one year of responding to the global pandemic and almost five years since the province declared an overdose emergency. These double health crises are already threatening our frontline emergency medical services, and the triple threat is that our profession is experiencing recruitment issues and an increase in stress leave, which has created a critical shortage of staff.”

“We are worried about members of the public feeling greater isolation over the holidays or using drugs alone and not having access to immediate medical care and transport to the hospital,” he explained.

Clifford says in addition to burnout, retention and recruitment at a breaking point, many don’t know that 75 per cent of the province relies on an on-call service model, meaning there’s no full-time ambulance service.

“This model makes retention and recruitment of paramedics a challenge because they don’t get meaningful compensation – only $2 per hour during an on-call shift with the hourly wage increasing only if they tend to an emergency or transfer a patient between health facilities.”

Although there are significant staffing shortages in urban and metropolitan areas, there is a major shortage in rural, remote and indigenous communities, according to APBC

With the holidays quickly approaching, and with restrictions continuing for B.C residents, Ambulance Paramedics of BC is asking the public to frequently check in with family and friends who may be vulnerable and encourage anyone who may be using drugs to do it with someone else present.