A recent review commissioned by the BCEHS Board of Directors of more than 350,000 emergency responses provided by ground ambulances in Metro Vancouver and Victoria provided BCEHS with evidence-based data regarding current call-response and future demand.
"We face increased demand from an aging population and growing rates of complex chronic disease. To reduce the pressures these put on emergency and hospital services, we are focusing on patients more proactively – with prevention, health management and better primary care in a patient's community. A strong and responsive ambulance system is still critical," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "We must continue to modernize our pre-hospital emergency services and integrate them better with other parts of the health system, to create a more patient-centred, sustainable ambulance service for the province. This review gives us valuable information to help achieve that goal."
The Action Plan identifies five overarching strategies to help drive system-wide improvements:
- improving performance efficiencies to reduce dispatch and mobilization response times;
- reviewing the approach to responding to calls of a minor nature and low-acuity transfers;
- working with health authorities to improve turn-around times from hospitals and patient-transfer times;
- developing a multi-year strategy for implementation of new resources; and
- enabling innovation in the way the province delivers emergency health services.
"This Action Plan builds on the work BCEHS has already started to renew and revitalize emergency services to make them more responsive and effective for patients," says Linda Lupini, Executive Vice-President, Provincial Health Services Authority and BC Emergency Health Services.
As a first step, BCEHS has added 8 additional ambulances and 34 FTEs in the Lower Mainland. In addition, BCEHS will work with government to develop a more detailed implementation plan and business case in the next few months in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, union, paramedics and health authorities.
Data from the review of emergency health service in the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria regions, which account for 85% of all BCEHS' calls, show that demand is projected to continue to increase due to population growth and aging. In addition, BCEHS is currently responding to a high volume of calls and transfers for low-acuity patients (those with medical issues that are not urgent or life-threatening). The data also show that paramedics are often in Emergency Departments longer than 30 minutes waiting to hand over low-acuity patients. These factors affect patient service overall and average response times.
Many of the action plan priorities will also be applied to enhance services in other areas of the province, outside the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria regions. BCEHS has already announced and begun implementing a community paramedicine program aimed at strengthening emergency care in rural and remote areas of the province.
"We look forward to improving our effectiveness by working collaboratively with our staff and key partners, but we also need to become more innovative in how we provide services to patients. Patient care and the patient experience will be enhanced through our efforts to be more progressive and flexible in how we respond to the needs of our patients, especially as they age and their need for our services grows," says Lupini.
A copy of BCEHS' Action Plan, and the Demand Analysis of Metro Ambulance Service Delivery Report, can be found here:
Transforming Emergency Health Services Action Plan
Demand Analysis of Metro Ambulance Service Delivery Report
Demand Analysis of Metro Ambulance Service Delivery Appendices
BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is responsible for the delivery and governance of pre-hospital emergency medical care and inter-facility patient transfer services through the BC Ambulance Service and the BC Patient Transfer Network. BCEHS is supported by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA).