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BC Ambulance stabilizing Ucluelet staffing with eyes on new station

“We have great news for you and recent improvements,” said BC Emergency Health Services’ Lindsay Esson
Ucluelet could be in store for a new ambulance station as BC Emergency Health Services looks to boost the town’s paramedic staffing levels. (Maggie Gilbert photo)

Ucluelet’s BC Ambulance team is expanding and a new station could be on the horizon, though housing options will need to be hashed out so the new crew have a place to stay.

“We have great news for you and recent improvements,” Lindsay Esson of BC Emergency Health Services told the town’s council during Jan. 23’s regular meeting.

Esson explained a new three-year collective agreement has been reached with the union that represents paramedics and dispatchers.

“It includes changes that will help improve coverage and patient care, particularly in rural and remote areas, stabilize staffing, increase employee retention and improve employee wellness,” she said. “We’ll be phasing out the scheduled on-call in rural and remote areas with a goal of a more tailored approach to the community and the station.”

The province is currently recruiting for over 400 new paramedic positions with a model designed to provide a more stabilized approach to staffing, according to Esson.

“For Ucluelet specifically the community paramedic program will now be a standalone, full time position and we’re currently in the process of recruiting that position,” she said.

She said recruiting is also underway to hire eight 0.75 full-time equivalent positions in Ucluelet with the hope that the majority of those hired will be local residents.

The current station’s roster consists of 13 casual positions with one of the four scheduled on- call positions staffed and, Esson said, emergency services personnel responded to 394 emergency events in 2023.

She explained the organization currently rents out a hotel room for staff and will likely need to add to that when the new program comes into effect on April 1.

“Come April, we’re looking to expand that to a second hotel room, which bumps us up to approximately $10,000 per month that we’re spending on housing,” she said.

She said a modular housing facility is being investigated for the station’s back parking lot and that and a temporary use permit may be sought while the organization looks into

“a long term solution for a new station.”

“As we recruit for the new staffing model, we need to consider that we’ve outgrown our current station footprint and we need to work together to attract and retain paramedic staff,” she said.

Coun. Jennifer Hoar said she was “excited to see how this one pans out” and asked if there were locals being considered for the new positions.

Esson said members currently attached to the station will have first dibs.

“We’re hoping to find a way to retain them so that they can become full time community members,” she said.

McEwen asked if the new model would mean current on-call staff would lose their positions due to having other full-time jobs.

Esson suggested on-call positions will still be needed and that multiple stations throughout the province still have casual employees to fill vacancies, so employees that want to maintain their on-call positions with BC Ambulance to supplement their full time careers will still be able to.

“We’re offering a viable career path for people in the community,” she said.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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