NANAIMO — Bolstered ambulance resources on the mid-island have allowed paramedics to respond to serious calls faster, while easing workloads and taking pressure off neighbouring communities.
Data supplied to NanaimoNewsNOW from BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) showed the average response times to high acuity (lights and sirens) calls in Nanaimo dropped from 8:27 in January to 7:46 in May.
Faster responses coincide with doubling the number of full-time paramedics in Nanaimo to 48, while adding two full-time paramedics respectively in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Ladysmith.
Lance Stephenson, Vancouver Island Director for the BC Ambulance Service, said the badly needed resources have made notable impacts in three key areas since implementation three months ago.
“Being able to push ambulances back into their own communities of the Ladysmith, Parksville and Qualicum areas, cut down on the volume of calls our staff are seeing and get to those life-threatening calls quicker than we were before,” Stephenson said.
BCEHS data showed 13 per cent of calls in Nanaimo in January were supported by ambulance crews outside of Nanaimo. That statistic fell to 6 per cent in May.
Stephenson said the number of ambulance vehicles in Nanaimo has risen from five to eight since the plan took effect March 26.
Stephenson said more full-time paramedics in Nanaimo puts less pressure on relying on casual staff to fill shifts, which can be difficult, resulting in a more cohesive local workforce and higher morale.
He said the opioid crisis is another reason more ambulance resources were needed in Nanaimo.
“We used to see maybe one overdose a day, now we’re seeing upwards around four or five and even more on pay weeks and weekends.”
BC Ambulance data showed paramedics in Nanaimo responded to 651 overdose calls last year, up from 288 in 2015.
Adrian Dix, B.C. Health Minister, told NanaimoNewsNOW he’s pleased to hear about the 41-second reduction in average response times to serious calls in Nanaimo between January and May.
“If you’re waiting for an ambulance that’s a huge difference and one that’s significant to people,” Dix said. “I’m definitely pleased to see that we’re responding to life-threatening and time sensitive calls more quickly.”
In Nanaimo, BC Ambulance Service paramedics responded to 15,470 calls in 2017, more than 4,200 of which were high acuity.