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Concerns arise about ambulance services in Sooke, B.C.


It’s a problem that many small communities in British Columbia experience: an empty ambulance station.

Troy Clifford, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC union, says there's a domino effect when paramedics are called to larger communities in the region.

"Everything gets pulled into where the volumes are," he said Monday.

When resources are needed in Victoria, BC Ambulance will pull from the West Shore, according to Clifford. That leaves Sooke’s resources to cover the West Shore if that community's paramedics are in Victoria, often leaving Sooke with the nearest ambulance 20 minutes away.

B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) recently added an ambulance staffed in Sooke to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule.

"Quite often that is being drawn into the West Shore, and even farther in, and we’re seeing that from up the peninsula as well," said Clifford.

In a statement Monday, the BCEHS said that the closest paramedic unit to an emergency always responds to the call.

“BCEHS has added hundreds of new paramedic positions across the province in the past year, including seven new permanent, full-time positions in Sooke,” added the organization.

Despite the new hires, Clifford estimates the province is still short at least 500 paramedics. He says the problem lies in the larger metro centres, which draw resources out of the smaller centres.

“So if we need more resources in Victoria, we need to put them in place,” said Clifford.


Other first responders in Sooke are often filling in the gaps. Firefighters say up to 55 to 60 per cent of their workload is medical calls.

“I think last year we responded to approximately 535 medical aid calls,” said deputy Chief Matt Barney, of the Sooke Fire Rescue Department.

According to the fire department, if an ambulance response time is greater than 10 minutes, they pick up the call.

“We can be waiting 15 to 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on scene, once we’ve arrived on scene,” said Barney.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait believes ambulance resources haven’t kept up with growth.

“[I] would like to see more ambulances located in the community – instead of just responding to it,” she said.

While the BCEHS says ambulances always return to Sooke as soon as possible, others say an empty ambulance hall is a far too common sight in the community.

“In cases where an ambulance based in Sooke needs to be deployed to respond to an emergency in another community, the goal is always to have it return to the community as soon as possible once the response is completed,” said the BCEHS. Top Stories

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