Dec 13, 2016

Ambulances sit idle during fentanyl crisis while Premier spends millions on pre-election advertising—CUPE BC

VANCOUVER—News that Vancouver City Council is considering a 0.5 percent property tax increase to raise funds to address the ongoing and growing opioid overdose crisis shows again how provincial downloading of costs and responsibilities is hurting people, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro said today.

“Cities and towns shouldn’t have to raise their own funds to provide provincially mandated services like emergency health care,” said Faoro. “The B.C. Ambulance Service and highly trained ambulance paramedics are the most cost-effective and efficient way of treating drug users who overdose on fentanyl-tainted drugs.”

Faoro pointed out that as recently as last week, even BC Liberal Health Minister Terry Lake was unable to say how many additional—if any—ambulances are in service in Vancouver since his government provided a small increase in funding to the provincial B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS).

“We’ve known for some time that there aren’t enough ambulances to fill the need in Metro Vancouver,” said Faoro. “But on top of that, the provincial government’s mismanagement of the system means that even existing ambulances aren’t being used. Last Friday night 19 out of 60 ambulances in greater Vancouver were not in service, because of inefficient use of the scheduling system by the ambulance service. That meant that in the middle of a massive health crisis, nearly a third of lower mainland ambulances weren’t available, while qualified paramedics weren’t able to do their jobs.

“It’s clear that significantly more resources are required to deal with this epidemic,” said Faoro. “This is a provincial issue—not just a Vancouver issue—and we need the Premier and her government to step up. The simplest way is to direct the ambulance service to fully staff ambulances, both in Vancouver and across the province.

“The Premier can find money for pre-election goodies and a taxpayer-funded partisan ad campaign, but she won’t put badly needed ambulances on the road in the middle of an epidemic of overdoses. Nearly 700 British Columbians have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2016—how many deaths will it take for the Premier to take meaningful action to save lives?”

COPE 491