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

MP Morrison faults federal Throne Speech as new Parliament session begins

Kootenay-Columbia representative criticizes a lack of focus on jobs, support for resource sector

Man whose crime spree began in Nelson pleads guilty in death of female passenger

Anthony Cortez scheduled to be sentenced for 2017 incidents

Province’s response to old growth forest report falls short, says Nelson scientist

Rachel Holt says province is saving areas that don’t need protection, ignoring those that do

Former Nelson Leafs player, coach passes away

Gary McQuaid played for the Leafs in the 1960s and 70s

Totem pole considered cultural appropriation removed from Nelson’s Hume School

The pole had also become rotted and was seen as dangerous to students

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Interior Health reports five new COVID-19 cases

Across the region, 34 cases are active

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Most Read