The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Lower Mainland politicians say ambulances changes download costs on cities

  • Print

VANCOUVER - A group representing 33 local British Columbia governments say changes made by the B.C. Ambulance Service are straining municipal resources because paramedic responses are now too slow.

Members of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, which represents local governments from Hope to Squamish unanimously passed a resolution calling on the province to develop a patient-centred emergency response service provided by fire, rescue services and the B.C. Ambulance Service.

The ambulance service recently downgraded its response to 39 types of calls, dropping them from emergency to routine, saying that would ensure the most severe cases get priority.

Ambulances drive with lights and sirens on during emergency calls, but leave them off during routine responses.

Chuck Puchmayr, the president of the association, says the New Westminster fire department told him paramedics are sluggish to respond to potentially serious cases such as heart problems, head injuries and breathing issues.

Puchmayr says that first responders, often firefighters, are forced to arrive on scene and "babysit" patients for lengthy amounts of time before ambulances arrive.

He says this drains municipal first responder resources and puts patients in danger.

"We're actually seeing now ambulances not even getting to the scenes of serious medical emergencies where the firefighters are asking for an upgrade in response," said Puchmayr. "People are finding their way to the hospital on their own."

He says the association will continue to approach the province to address the issue now that the motion has been passed.

The agency that oversees the B.C. Ambulance Service likened recent criticisms levelled against its changes to paramedic response protocols to trusting politicians with emergency surgery.

"You wouldn't have a city councillor tell you how to do surgery in an operating room," said Dr. William Dick of B.C. Emergency Health Services. "You wouldn't have Mr. Puchmayr in an emergency department telling the doctors how to run the emergency department."

"At the end of the day, I know we're right," said Dick. "There's an agenda here that does not make sense."

He says cases are rare where ambulances take excess amounts of time to get to the scene.

He says on average, the new response protocol has lowered response times to serious incidents by one minute while increasing response times to non-serious cases by six minutes.

It allows the patients who need the help the most to get it first, he said.

Furthermore, first responders aren't obligated to attend calls that dispatchers have designated as non-serious, he said.

The reason why some first responders still attend non-serious calls is because they haven't adapted to the new ambulance protocol, he said.

"Some people get it, and some people — they don't," Dick said.

Bronwyn Barter, who speaks for the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., says the new response protocol allows paramedics to reach patients in serious condition faster, but that can cause patients with non-serious injuries to suffer.

"The person who has a fractured hip lying on the sidewalk shouldn't have to suffer more," said Barter. "Basically we've robbed Peter to pay Paul over here."

Furthermore, response delays could cause a non-serious condition to turn into a serious one, she said.

An independent report from a former paramedic and expert on emergency care says B.C. Ambulance's response changes patients' needs are being met and B.C. is a leader among emergency medical service systems.

However, first responders from various municipalities continue to complain the new protocol is making patients wait too long.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stuary Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos


Which of Manitoba's new landlord-tenant rules are you looking forward to most?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google