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UPDATE: BCEHS fills vacant ambulance shifts in Kamloops, is making 'every effort' to recruit

(UPDATE: June 7 @ 4:45 pm) - There will be staffed ambulances in Kamloops tonight.

BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) reached out to KamloopsNow around 4:30 pm to confirm that four ambulances will be staffed in Kamloops this evening, as well as a single responder that can be used to transport lower-acuity patients.

There will be two ambulances staffed overnight.

"BCEHS closely monitors staffing levels and our scheduling department works continuously to fill any vacant shifts," BCEHS told KamloopsNow.

"As a provincial ambulance service with no municipal boundaries, when there are unstaffed ambulances we have a strong system in place to find additional staff and send ambulances from the surrounding stations."

Asked whether this is an issue that bigger cities like Kamloops and Kelowna could be seeing these kinds of close calls when it comes to staffing in the future, BCEHS said its making efforts to fill vacancies and build capacity for the future.

"We are making every effort to recruit for open positions, both through local engagement in communities across the province and through our nationwide recruitment campaign," the service said.

"BCEHS added hundreds of new paramedic positions over the last year, which has increased short term vacancies, but will stabilize our staffing and improve our service to British Columbians over the long term."

And when it comes to concerns about overtime pay and wage disparity with other emergency services, BCEHS said it offers paramedics the opportunity to work in permanent, regularly-scheduled positions with regular benefits.

The contradictory comments from the BC EMS ALERT Facebook group on that issue can be found in the original story below.

(Original story: June 7 @ 4:15 pm) - KamloopsNow has received multiple reports that there could be no ambulances staffed in Kamloops tonight.

That would mean that all ambulance service would have to come from surrounding communities like Cache Creek, Clearwater or Merritt.

KamloopsNow has confirmed that an alert went out Monday night in an effort to staff Tuesday night’s shift from 6 pm until 6 am on Wednesday.

The request said that the Kamloops post had only one employee scheduled, but at least two are needed to properly operate an ambulance, as one drives and one attends to the patient.

It’s unknown at this time whether more paramedics have been scheduled to work tonight, as calls and emails to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) received no reply by the time of publishing.

A relatively new Facebook group that aims to alert the public to these kind of staffing issues around the province alleges several reasons why this is happening.

“The Employment Standards Act (ESA) was changed to enforce OT after 12 hours in April, however even though BCEHS was given 2+ years to implement this change they haven't,” explained a representative from the BC EMS ALERT Facebook group.

“So we don't get overtime as legally defined. On call paramedics still only make $2 an hour. BCEHS also just posted a bunch of internal jobs where you have to commit to 72 hours straight, and have other schedules that are 96 hours of work.”

The representative added that there are also concerns about wage parity with other emergency services, as there is currently a significant disparity there.

RCMP officers and firefighters in Kamloops both reportedly make base salaries over $100,000, whereas BCEHS paramedics have a base salary of just under $70,000.

“We're not advocating to make the same, but we would like to be within 10% of our partners in emergency services,” the representative added.

KamloopsNow will update this story if more information comes available or BCEHS offers a response.

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