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Colwood demands return to full ambulance service

Colwood council is calling for an end to a BC Ambulance pilot project that has left only one round-the-clock ambulance running out of the West Shore station.

Colwood council is calling for an end to a BC Ambulance pilot project that has left only one round-the-clock ambulance running out of the West Shore station.

On June 1, BC Ambulance quietly reassigned two peak-hour cars from West Shore to the central station on Douglas Street near Uptown to bring them closer to the bulk of emergency calls come from.

The trial is slated to last three months, but Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders says it should end immediately. Shawn Carby, executive director for BC Ambulance on Vancouver Island, attended a recent council meeting to hear the City’s concern.

“We don’t want this trial to continue,” Saunders said. “Our citizens don’t want it, and in that it’s the citizens paying for the service, I think you need to listen to them on that one.”

Protective services committee chair Coun. Gordie Logan read from a stack of statistics on ambulance response times on West Shore since the trial began. He said that at end of June there was a 17 minute responce time to a 16-month-old infant who was having a seizure, and on July 11 the nearest ambulance available to respond to a cardiac arrest had to drive from Sooke.

“That person passed away because of many factors but certainly delayed response by the ambulance contributed,” Logan said.

But Carby, himself a West Shore resident, said those incidents were unusual and that overall response times have not increased. Comparing West Shore statistics for June to the previous month, he said there was actually a five per cent increase in the number of high priority calls where the ambulance made it to the scene in nine minutes or less.

Carby also cited a peak call volume on June 16, when West Shore had nine emergencies between 7 and 11 a.m. and the ambulance was able to respond to all of them. Victoria, during the same time period, had 33 calls.

“The goal of this trial is equalizing utalization of the resources region-wide, and it’s meeting that target,” Carby said. “Ambulances are not assigned to specific areas, they don’t work on municipal boundaries. They go where the call volume is.”

Indeed, when there were three ambulances based out of the West Shore, they would regularly respond to emergencies happening elsewhere. But between calls the ambulances would return to the Jacklin Road station. Now the vehicles only park there when paramedics are off shift.

Logan said having fewer ambulances impacts municipal emergency services. Responders deployed from Colwood Fire Rescue are required to stay on scene until an ambulance arrives. If the ambulance takes longer, firefighters are the ones filling the gap.

“At the end of the day, that’s passing the cost onto us, it affects our bottom line,” Logan said, adding that the province should fund more ambulances in Victoria and restore service to West Shore.

“I understand the pressures (for ambulance services), but that means resources need to come in provincially not from other communities,” Logan said.

Colwood has scheduled a meeting to also express its concern to Minister of Health Michael de Jong at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference this September.