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More ambulance services in rural and remote communities in the B.C. interior

VICTORIA – People living in 21 communities in the B.C. interior are now benefiting from improved paramedic staffing models to enhance 911 responsiveness and provide consistent and reliable out-of-hospital care.
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“Since 2017, our government has supported BCEHS’s work to significantly improve paramedic staffing and strengthen and transform ambulance service throughout the province,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The April 1, 2024 conversion of 60 ambulance stations across the province to more effective service delivery models that respond to each of these 60 communities’ unique needs provides more equitable access to care for people living in rural and remote communities, and better compensation and work environments for paramedics, particularly those who already live and work in these communities and provide emergency medical care to neighbours and community members. I commend the continued collaboration by BCEHS and CUPE 873 to make things better for paramedics who provide valuable, essential healthcare service to people in B.C.” 

All 21 communities in the Interior Health region transitioned from the “scheduled on-call” (SOC) model to one of three new models that will support available, staffed ambulances, and will continue to move BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) towards a predominantly regularized workforce.

Eight communities including Alexis Creek, Clinton, Fruitvale, Logan Lake, Lumby, Midway, Rossland and Salmo were upgraded to the 24/7 full-time “alpha” model in ambulance stations on April 1, 2024. Under this model, each station has 8 full-time positions, with paramedics in the station 24 hours a day. Compared to the previous model, this means that there will be paramedics in the station on duty three times more than with the SOC model that had paramedics at the station 8 hours a day, and 16 hours on call.

Eight communities, including Anahim Lake, Lytton, Elkford, Greenwood, Kaslo, New Denver, Riondel and Winlaw upgraded to a new “mix shift” staffing model on April 1, 2024. The mix shift model has staff on duty in the station twice as often as they did with the SOC model, with 16 hours in station on duty and 8 hours on call (pager) at night.

Five communities - Seton Portage, Gold Bridge, Blue River, Edgewood and Field –are benefiting from new full-time paramedic unit chiefs to provide support to on-call paramedic staffing in these communities. The on-call “kilo” model in these stations offers more flexible staffing options to maximize local recruitment. It also leverages the latest collective agreement with paramedics, which increased the on-call rate from $2 per hour to $12 per hour.

“In our many discussions with community leaders in these rural and remote communities we heard how critically important paramedic services are to them,” said Leanne Heppell, BCEHS’ Chief Ambulance Officer. “These improved paramedic staffing models and the increase in full-time and regular part-time positions together with the changes we are making to enhance community paramedicine services are an exciting investment in the health and well-being of our patients in rural and remote British Columbia.”

The plan to convert staffing models in 60 communities in rural and remote B.C., including 21 in the interior, was outlined in a joint announcement from BCEHS, the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC, CUPE Local 873) and the Ministry of Health on November 9, 2023. Further changes in December 2023 resulted in additional positions in two communities, Rossland and Sointula.

BCEHS and APBC (CUPE Local 873) worked together closely with the 60 communities to determine the best staffing model for each and to bring forward recommendations to the Ministry of Health. This work included engagement with staff, the communities, First Nations leaders and health authorities. BCEHS will continue working closely with partners to address future needs of communities and make changes as needed.

“The April 1 conversions are an important change in how we provide paramedic services in these 60 communities,” said Ambulance Paramedics of BC president, Jason Jackson. “Patient care is the most important thing to us, and this new approach helps us better recruit and retain paramedics to work in these smaller communities, improve how we respond to 911 calls, and most importantly, help paramedics provide better care to our patients.”

“Enhanced ambulance services for our communities are welcome news, and this investment will bolster emergency response times so more people in rural and remote areas get the timely care they need, when and where they need it,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health.

“Expanding ambulance services to more areas is crucial so people can get better access to the ambulatory care they need, when they need it most,” said Katrine Conroy, MLA, Kootenay West.

"The addition of more ambulance services in our region will help save lives and improve response time. This will bring more peace of mind to people in our communities," said Harwinder Sandhu, MLA, Vernon-Monashee. “I am thrilled that the Lumby station will have 8 full time positions with paramedics in station 24/7.”

“Every minute matters in a life-threatening situation, so we are taking action to expand ambulance services in our region to make sure that people will have further improved access to timely care,” said Roly Russell, MLA, Boundary-Similkameen, "this helps provide even better care for people who chose to live in small communities, providing better quality care to rural residents across the province."

"Improving ambulance services will make a real difference to people in our region, and our government and our partners will continue working hard to find solutions that will help shorten response times,” said Brittny Anderson, MLA, Nelson-Creston.

“Our City of Rossland is, of course, very pleased to hear of the enhanced level of service by the Province, providing an improved paramedic staffing model,” said Mayor Andy Morel. “Having 24-hour quick response for medical emergencies is important. We have an active, outdoor community in all seasons, including a population of aging residents who, at times, require ambulance services to support their health care needs. As a multi-generational community, we wish to support our Rossland seniors in continuing to live in their homes as long as possible. Consistent and timely support from BC Paramedics supports this important value to our community."

Together with the staffing model conversions, changes have been made to Community Paramedic positions to better fit community needs. At least 55 stand-alone Community Paramedic positions (55.2) FTEs) will focus on delivering community-based care and outreach services. Unlike the previous scheduled on-call model, these roles are no longer automatically integrated into the 911 emergency response. They will however respond to potentially life-threatening 911 calls if they are the nearest available unit, along with regular ambulance resources providing support.

While the conversions are complete as of April 1, 2024, the job competition and recruitment process for the new positions is ongoing. Many of the new shifts are currently being filled by existing staff working backfill to fill the new roles.

The transformation to the new models represents one of the single largest recruitments of primary care paramedics in BCEHS history. To help recruiting efforts BCEHS has created a dedicated BCEHS talent acquisition team with 32 permanent staff as well as temporary support staff. BCEHS has also created a proactive recruitment team with five Indigenous recruiters, focused on bringing more Indigenous paramedics into BCEHS. 

The conversion to the new models builds on significant provincial investments to better support ambulance paramedics and dispatchers and improve services for people throughout B.C. 

Creating opportunities for people to join the health-care workforce in B.C. is part of government’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which was announced on Sept. 29, 2022. The strategy supports patients by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. It focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

Two backgrounders follow.

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 BC Patient Transfer Services. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @BC_EHS.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) provides specialized health care services and programs to communities across British Columbia, the territories of many distinct First Nations. We are grateful to all the First Nations who have cared for and nurtured this land for all time, including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səlil̓w̓ətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations on whose unceded and ancestral territory our head office is located. We work in partnership with other B.C. health authorities and the provincial government to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit or follow us @PHSAofBC

Media contact: or 604-660-6925


Breakdown of the communities converted from the Scheduled On-Call staffing model

BCEHS and Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC, CUPE Local 873 have worked closely together with these communities to determine the best staffing model for each of the 60 communities and to bring forward recommendations to the Ministry of Health. This work included engagement with staff, the communities, First Nations leaders, health authorities and the APBC.

Stations with the 24/7 Alpha shift model means the communities have at least 8 full-time paramedics, and staff will be on duty in the stations 24 hours a day (4 paramedics over a 24-hour period, each crew of 2 working a 12-hour shift on a rotation of 4 days on, 4 days off). Communities transitioned to 24/7 Alpha are:

1. Gabriola Island
2. Gold River
3. Quadra Island
4. Boston Bar
5. Bowen Island
6. Bella Coola 
7. Maderia Park
8. Clinton
9. Logan Lake
10. Lumby
11. Alexis Creek
12. Midway
13. Fruitvale
14. Salmo
15. McBride
16. Mackenzie
17. Village of Daajing Giids
18. Masset
19. Dease Lake
20. Fraser Lake
21. Tumbler Ridge
22. Rossland (upgraded from Mix Shift model in December 2023)

Stations with the Mix Shift model means a total of 8 regular part time positions providing 24 hours coverage with 16 hours in the station and 8 hours on-call (4 paramedics over a 24-hour period, with a crew of 2 working a 12-hour shift, and the next crew working 4 hours in station, and 8 hours on call, on a rotation of 4 days on, 4 days off). Communities transitioned to Mix Shift model are:

1. Alert Bay
2. Mayne Island
3. Pender Island
4. Port Renfrew
5. Galiano Island
6. Sayward
7. Ucluelet
8. Cortes Island
9. Denman Island
10. Port Alice
11. Bella Bella
12. Texada 
13. Tahsis
14. Anahim Lake
15. Lytton
16. Elkford
17. Greenwood
18. Kaslo
19. New Denver
20. Riondel
21. Winlaw
22. Granisle
23. Southside
24. Hudson’s Hope
25. Sointula (upgraded from on-call Kilo model in December 2023)

Stations with the On-Call (Kilo) model with a unit chief will have a full-time unit chief and staff that are on-call. Communities transitioning to this model are:

1. Zeballos
2. Seton Portage
3. Gold Bridge
4. Blue River
5. Edgewood
6. Field
7. Bear Lake
8. Wells
9. Stewart
10. Port Clements
11. Kitwanga
12. Sandspit
13. Atlin

In addition, 55.2 community paramedic full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) will now provide dedicated community-based care and community outreach. This enhancement is a direct result of increased paramedic staffing under the new models, which means that community paramedics will no longer be required to automatically respond to 911 calls as previously required in the SOC model. However, Community paramedics will still respond to life-threatening 911 calls if they are the closest paramedic unit, to support regular responding crews. 

Provincewide, the conversion from SOC to three other models means 281 full-time and 200 regular part-time positions, representing a total full-time equivalent of 432 positions, 245.95 of which are net new positions. 


Provincial efforts to better support and improve ambulance services in B.C.

This announcement builds on other significant provincial investments to better support ambulance paramedics and dispatchers and improve services for people throughout B.C.  Actions include:

  • Since 2017, the province has increased the BCEHS annual operating budget from approximately $424 million to $766 million in 2022/23. This enabled an increase to 59% of paramedics having regular permanent positions compared to 39% of paramedics in 2017.
  • Since 2020, BCEHS has added 77 ground ambulances and 5 additional dedicated air ambulances.
    • This includes 55 new ground ambulances and 5 dedicated air ambulances that were added as part of the Rural, Remote, First Nations and Indigenous Covid-19 Response Framework. 
    • This also includes 22 new ground ambulances announced in 2021 which have all been deployed to support patient care. 
  • To tackle workload issues, actions were taken to ensure workplaces are safe, respectful, and inclusive, as well as supportive of the health and well-being of all employees.
    • In 2022, a joint committee was formed to implement collaborative recommendations on a comprehensive, short, medium and long-term psychological health and safety strategy.
    • As well, clinical supports and resources have been increased through the critical incident stress management program to make it easier for front-line staff and their families to access important mental health services, and
    • More resources have been added for all BCEHS staff and their families to access the network of trauma informed and occupationally competent counsellors who provide psychological care.
  • Since 2017, BCEHS has added more than 1,500 new full-time and part-time permanent paramedic and emergency medical responder positions, and at least 42 emergency medical dispatch positions. 
  • In 2021, the Province announced the expansion of the care and treatment paramedics and first responders can provide to people in emergency situations. For paramedics, this means the ability to provide more life-saving interventions, which at various licensing levels can include:
    • needle decompression for major chest traumas to support breathing;
    • using portable ultrasound to better assess patients and inform care decisions;
    • enhancing airway management skills; and
    • providing life supporting or sustaining medications during transport.
  • The Province is also investing approximately $2 million in funding for the Justice Institute of BC to expand its paramedic programming. This funding will help the primary care paramedic certificate program to be delivered to more than 100 students, and emergency medical responder training to approximately 30 participants.
  • In 2021, the Province announced 24 ambulance stations would be converted from on-call paramedic staffing to 24/7 “alpha” stations with at least eight full-time paramedics. Communities that benefitted from the enhanced ambulance service are Lake Cowichan, Port McNeill, Tofino, Cumberland, Bowser, Pemberton, Ashcroft, Barriere, Keremeos, Lillooet, Princeton, Sicamous, Clearwater, Revelstoke, Peachland, Fernie, Golden, Kimberley, Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Houston, Vanderhoof, Chetwynd and Fort Nelson. 
  • In 2022, another 4 ambulance stations were upgraded to 24/7 alpha stations, including Nakusp, Sparwood, Valemount and Central Saanich. 
  • In July 2021 and December 2021, the BC government made commitments to strengthen mental health and critical incident support for BCEHS staff. This included immediate actions to:
    • create a BCEHS and Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (APBC) joint committee to implement collaborative recommendations on a comprehensive, short, medium and long-term psychological health and safety strategy;
    • increase clinical supports and resources through the critical incident stress management program to better support and help front-line staff and their families navigate resources available to them and to make it easier to access important mental health services in a timely manner; and
    • add resources for all BCEHS staff and their families to the network of trauma informed and occupationally competent counsellors who provide psychological care.

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