Castlegar Council hopes to see progress on ambulance issue

The topic of ambulance services was brought up again during Monday night’s city council meeting.

The topic of ambulance services was brought up again during Monday night’s city council meeting.

Complaints about ambulance wait times have been multiplying around town in recent years and council has not been happy with the response from British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).

The organization has said it is developing a provincial action plan to improve services but had said it may take several years to implement.

In a follow up to a conversation with BCEHS West Kootenay representative Joe Puskaric at a recent public safety committee meeting, Puskaric has sent a letter to council updating the plans BCEHS has for the region.

READ MORE: Castlegar councillors have had it with ambulance wait times

The letter states: “We are working with Interior Health to look at strategies to ensure that we can continue to serve patients that require transfer between hospitals without losing emergency coverage.

“We are currently finalizing details of the plan, and hope to have this work completed within the next couple of months.”

“I pushed Joe for this correspondence,” said Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “As we know, sometimes people say things and they never follow up. What this eventually will be — in the next couple of months — is they are going to be moving ambulances from one area to another area especially to Castlegar just for [hospital] transfers to always free up one ambulance for emergency 911 calls.”

“I want to encourage everybody — if you call an ambulance and you have a complaint about the time — that you keep calling the BC Ambulance Service. That is the only time we are going to get real change,” added Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “It’s a start.”

Several councillors also expressed frustration over the fact that when the Castlegar Fire Department answers calls as first-responders and must stay in attendance while waiting for an ambulance the financial burden is placed on local taxpayers when they are already paying for a provincial service that should be covering the need.

“I think this is more than a council issue — it is something that is provincial and needs to go to Katrine [Conroy] as well because it is a download,” said Coun. Deb McIntosh. “I absolutely encourage everyone to contact our local MLA.”

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