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Minister’s statement on BC Emergency Health Services’ 50th anniversary

July 3, 2024 at 1:37 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, has issued the following statement in recognition of BC Emergency Health Services’ 50th anniversary on July 1, 2024:

“I am grateful for the efforts of all BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) employees, paramedics, dispatchers and call takers, who are the health-care champions we turn to in times of dire need. BCEHS workers are committed and compassionate, working with demanding challenges and stressful situations throughout B.C.

“This milestone anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary progress made to emergency health-care services over the decades, and to recognize the BCEHS’s achievements in and contributions to health care in British Columbia. I would like to start off by acknowledging that under Premier Dave Barrett, health minister Dennis Cocke created a provincial ambulance service in 1974. In doing so, he amalgamated the patchwork of private and municipal ambulance services, and created a standardized emergency ambulance care for the province.

“Since 1974, the BC Ambulance Service, now known as BC Emergency Health Services, has evolved to provide out-of-hospital and inter-hospital health services with both ground and air ambulances throughout the province. In that time, a growing population and progressively more complex health-care needs have increased the demand for emergency health-care services.

“Today, nearly 6,000 BCEHS employees support patient care, including paramedics, medical-emergency call takers and dispatchers, front-line staff, administrators and managers.

“Faced with this surge in demand, a record number of people have received timely, life-saving care from BCEHS. Paramedics, dispatchers and call takers have responded to more calls than ever before. From 2017-18 to 2023-24, BCEHS responded to 15% more calls, inter-facility patient transfers grew by 4% and 911 calls climbed 34%.

“BCEHS continues to rise to the challenge each day, advancing patient care and supporting people with new care models that connect non-life-threatening calls with appropriate services. For example, a priority 911 queue was implemented in 2021 to prioritize the most serious 911 medical calls, and by the end of 2023, those calls were answered twice as fast as regular 911 calls.

“Since 2017, BCEHS has recruited more than 1,900 new full-time and part-time permanent paramedic, emergency medical responder and dispatch positions, with more than 900 of these paramedics working in rural and remote communities.

“As well, BCEHS is adding 55 new ambulances and replacing its existing air ambulance fleet with 12 new state-of-the-art air ambulances. Across metro and urban areas where demand is high, 15 paramedic response units have also been added.

“At the core of these investments and improvements is people. These changes have supported those working at BCEHS so they can continue to provide the emergency health-care services that people need. Calling for emergency health care can be scary and everyone at BCEHS, including the call takers, dispatchers and paramedics, do their best to make sure that people feel taken care of in these vulnerable moments.

“Our government is committed to ensuring that BCEHS continues to be supported for many years to come. Since 2017, spending in emergency health-care services has increased by more than $475 million, reaching close to $1 billion in 2023-24. This increased spending has been targeted to grow BCEHS staffing, training and mental-health supports, as well as investments to improve equitable access to ambulance services in B.C.

“I invite everyone to join me in giving thanks to the incredible people at the BCEHS for providing life-saving emergency health-care services throughout our province. I also encourage you to visit BCEHS’s special anniversary website, where 50 stories will mark these 50 years. Let’s celebrate BCEHS’s 50th anniversary together.

“Congratulations and thank you to everyone who has worked at BCEHS, past and present, for the significant impact you have on people’s lives every single day.”

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