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B.C. government strengthening ambulance system

The province is hiring more paramedics and dispatchers to improve emergency response times across the province.

Government officials said 85 new full-time paramedics and 30 full-time dispatchers will be hired to reinforce existing ambulance operations.

Along with the hiring of paramedics and dispatchers, provincial officials said they are also adding 22 new ambulances and converting 22 rural ambulance stations to 24/7 ALPHA stations to enhance ambulance coverage for these communities.

“When we call for help, we need to know help is on the way, and that it will arrive quickly,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Immediate action on operations, as well as stronger leadership and increased investment at BC Emergency Health Services, will deliver a more effective ambulance service for patients and families who depend on it. Better support for paramedics and dispatchers will help them do the vital work we count on every day.”

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Dix said the province is reconstituting the BC Emergency Health Services board of directors to solely focus on ambulance services.

He said the board has a clear mandate to ensure better service for patients and families who rely on the services.

Jim Chu, the former chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department has been appointed to chair the board.

“Jim Chu has extensive experience leading front-line emergency services in British Columbia. I am confident he will provide the focused governance leadership BC Emergency Services needs to be an effective and high-performing ambulance service,” said Dix.

“I am enthusiastic to bring what I have learned from my time as chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department to this important role,” said Chu. “I look forward to working together with the Ministry of Health, BC Emergency Health Services management, paramedics and dispatchers to ensure the ambulance service provides timely and exceptional help for British Columbians, and that it’s an outstanding employer for workers.”

Dix said all these changes will help improve response times and make sure people are getting the care they need.

“Let there be no doubt, our emergency health service system must work better for the people who call upon it and for those who answer the call for help,” added Dix. “We know that all British Columbians regardless of where they live count on timely and effective access to emergency services.

Government officials said the province will take immediate action to support health care workers. Provincial Officials said BC Emergency Health Services is contracting a team of mental health and wellness professionals to help workers address chronic stress, fatigue and support wellness among staff, including access to trauma-informed therapy.

Dix also announced that Leanne Heppell will serve as B.C.’s new chief ambulance officer on an interim basis and Darren Entwistle, the president and CEO of Telus will serve as a special adviser to the board.

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