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January 14, 2010

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Playing the waiting game with our paramedics

The ambulance paramedics have been waiting for more than four years for the provincial government to launch a comprehensive inquiry into the sorry state of ambulance service in BC. The list below of ambulance wait times is sad proof of the need for this. The figures come from the employer - the BC Ambulance Service - and they will no doubt shock many people with the length of time British Columbians have to wait for an ambulance in communities across this province. They are a disgrace.

The BC Liberals have been playing a waiting game with ambulance services.

They waited for months while the ambulance paramedics tried to negotiate a new contract last year. Then they waited seven more months while the paramedics were on a legal strike. They waited until the weight of public opinion forced them to launch a superficial and ineffective inquiry into ambulance services that is unlikely to change anything.

The government waited while paramedics described the overwhelming roadblocks they face in becoming and staying paramedics. That it takes an average of five years to even get on full time, that paramedics have to pay for their own transportation to remote areas and for their own training on their own time. That more and more paramedics are leaving the service to join firefighters or police because they say they can’t afford to stay ambulance paramedics.

The provincial government has been playing a waiting game with our lives.

Check the figures below for your community and for neighbouring communities. Check communities where your friends and loved ones live. Ask yourself how long people have without medical attention after a serious car accident, after a heart attack. Check the figures again. We all know that in a medical emergency every second counts. For example: for every minute lost in a cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent.

Keep in mind that the figures listed below are only the average wait time – not the longest wait time – and that they apply to only what are considered the “most serious” 911 calls. They also only represent the time to get to the patient’s address – not the time it takes to attend to the patient and then get the patient to a medical facility.

This is not a game. We are not playing. This is the matter of life and death.

When ambulance paramedics went on strike their job was deemed so crucial that the government immediately had them mandated to stay on the job under Essential Services orders. When VANOC realized that a disruption in service may affect the Olympics it had the government immediately legislate our paramedics ‘back to work’ negating their charter right to free collective bargaining.

When it wants to, the provincial government can move quickly. So why are we still waiting for a better ambulance service? Why are we still waiting for a fair collective agreement with our paramedics? Why are the people of BC left waiting?

It’s time to stop playing, stop waiting, and start providing ambulance paramedics with the tools they need to ensure that all British Columbians get the best ambulance service possible.

Barry O’Neill is president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, British Columbia division.

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100 Mile House 12:50

Abbotsford 10:56

Agassiz 24:50

Alert Bay 14:02

Alexis Creek 31:50

Anahim Lake 29:43

Anmore 15:44

Armstrong 11:35

Ashcroft 13:00

Balfour 26:14

Barriere 12:51

Bella Bella 38:34

Big White 26:19

Black Creek 21:51

Blind Bay 27:06

Boston Bar 19:03

Bowen Island 18:46

Bowser 16:05

Britannia Beach 19:48

Burnaby 11:07

Burns Lake 12:00

Cache Creek 19:36

Campbell River 10:05

Castlegar 11:44

Central Saanich 10:24

Chase 13:09

Chemainus 09:57

Chetwynd 15:47

Chilliwack 11:26

Christina Lake 22:04

Clearwater 20:32

Clinton 23:50

Cobble Hill 13:20

Coldstream 13:56

Colwood 08:48

Comox 12:26

Coombs 14:16

Coquihalla 32:46

Coquitlam 11:03

Courtenay 10:16

Cowichan Bay 13:12

Cranbrook 10:06

Creston 10:10

Crofton 16:37

Cultus Lake 18:33

Cumberland 08:34

Dawson Creek 10:41

Delta 11:42

Duncan 09:36

Elkford 22:08

Enderby 11:22

Errington 15:14

Esquimalt 08:37

Fairmont Springs 25:20

Falkland 31:20

Fanny Bay 20:47

Fernie 12:01

Field 30:08

Forest Grove 28:34

Fort Fraser 28:58

Fort Nelson 19:18

Fort St. James 15:58

Fort St. John 11:26

Fraser Lake 19:20

Fruitvale 20:46

Gabriola Island 20:39

Galiano Island 23:57

Gibsons 10:33

Gitanmaax 12:23

Gitsegukla 30:12

Gold River 18:30

Golden 17:59

Grand Forks 11:56

Halfmoon Bay 18:35

Harrison Hot Springs16:15

Hazelton 14:14

Highlands 16:19

Hope 11:56

Houston 14:38

Hudson's Hope 21:49

Invermere 16:08

Kaleden 16:08

Kamloops 10:04

Kelowna 09:43

Kent 13:47

Keremeos 11:10

Kimberley 11:20

Kitimat 09:20

Kuper Island 35:31

Ladysmith 12:39

Lake Country 11:43

Lake Cowichan 10:22

Langford 08:42

Langley 12:12

Lantzville 12:10

Lillooet 15:35

Logan Lake 19:37

Lower Nicola 17:07

Lumby 17:05

Lytton 18:50

Mackenzie 20:02

Madeira Park 17:46

Maple Ridge 10:32

Masset 25:08

Mayne Island 18:57

Merritt 14:44

Metchosin 15:40

Mill Bay 12:33

Mission 10:49

Moberly Lake 25:37

Mount Currie 19:47

Mt. Washington 28:51

Nakusp 22:21

Nanaimo 09:21

Nanoose Bay 16:33

Nelson 10:12

New Westminster 10:24

North Saanich 11:46

North Vancouver 10:25

Oak Bay 08:41

Okanagan Falls 18:00

Oliver 10:31

Osoyoos 10:35

Parksville 09:42

Peachland 10:40

Pemberton 11:10

Pender Island 20:04

Penticton 09:24

Pitt Meadows 12:47

Port Alberni 09:48

Port Alice 20:33

Port Coquitlam 11:24

Port Hardy 10:59

Port McNeill 11:40

Port Moody 10:58

Port Renfrew 22:36

Pouce Coupe 14:05

Powell River 11:32

Prince George 09:49

Prince Rupert 09:50

Princeton 15:12

Qualicum Beach 11:33

Quathiaski Cove 22:43

Quesnel 12:00

Revelstoke 17:12

Richmond 11:04

Roberts Creek 14:30

Rock Creek 22:41

Rossland 23:08

Saanich 08:27

Salmo 20:40

Salmon Arm 11:39

Saltspring Island 12:21

Sayward 19:53

Scotch Creek 26:18

Sechelt 10:14

Shawnigan Lke 13:21

Sicamous 11:25

Sidney 08:01

Skidegate 30:14

Smithers 10:19

Sooke 11:05

Sparwood 17:21

Spences Bridge 33:47

Squamish 11:38

Summerland 09:29

Sun Peaks 44:10

Surrey 10:50

Tappen 21:41

Terrace 10:18

Tofino 20:40

Trail 11:09

Tumbler Ridge 23:14

Ucluelet 20:21

Valemount 23:54

Vancouver 08:54

Vanderhoof 15:15

Vernon 10:21

Victoria 07:20

View Royal 09:30

Warfield 13:05

West Vancouver 10:39

Westbank 10:10

Whistler 12:58

White Rock 10:22

Williams Lake 12:25

Wilson Creek 14:16

Winfield 11:10

Zeballos 34:10