Historically, BCEHS has relied heavily on ‘on-call’ staffing for its ambulances in rural and remote communities. Paramedics make themselves available for shifts, often around other jobs and commitments, without a guarantee of reliable pay. This has made it difficult to attract and retain paramedics in smaller communities and has presented some challenges ensuring ambulances are always staffed.
Working together with the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers Association of BC, this staffing challenge is being addressed head-on with the introduction of more than 600 new full-time paramedic positions across the province, as well as new positions in dispatch.
Among the changes is a new type of position called the ‘Scheduled On-Call’ (SOC) model. It means permanent regular positions with guaranteed wages and full health benefits for the first time in many rural and remote communities.
The Scheduled On-Call model means that shifts can be fully scheduled, without waiting for the availability of on-call paramedics. It also introduces regular permanent supervisory unit chief positions in certain ambulance stations where unit chiefs were serving in on-call positions. Some areas will also see additional community paramedic services.
The transition to this new staffing model was prototyped on Vancouver Island and some of the Gulf Islands this past summer and will be implemented in ambulance stations across the rest of the province by late 2021. Overall, the Scheduled On-Call model will be creating 190 regular positions in the province’s rural and remote communities.
Hundreds of other (non-SOC) permanent positions are also being created in urban, rural and remote communities as BCEHS gradually ends the practice of ‘standby’ staffing, and by converting temporary ambulance placements to permanent ones.
All of the staffing changes throughout the province are based on in-depth analysis of 911 and hospital transfer call volumes as well as current BCEHS resources in ambulance stations that serve these communities. To ensure resources are best allocated to serve patients, and to ensure that paramedic workloads support employee well-being, we will monitor and adjust the changes as needed.
These changes are exciting and necessary for improvements to happen, yet there’s no doubt this transitional period is also a challenging time for some BCEHS employees who have dedicated themselves to serving in on-call positions for many years. BCEHS appreciates this incredible dedication and is working to support employees through this major transformation of our service model.
[Article updated October 8, 2021]