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Renewed attempt made to staff Kitwanga ambulance station

Community lacks resident paramedics; province wants full-time unit chief plus community paramedic
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The Kitwanga ambulance station is now in a former and inadequate forest service building. (Photo courtesy Kitwanga Community Association)

The provincial government is making a renewed effort at staffing the ambulance station at Kitwanga with full time employees who live in the community.

There hasn’t been a full-time presence in the community along Hwy 16 between Terrace and Hazelton since late 2021. Paramedics from Hazelton are now providing coverage as required.

But now, as part of a concerted effort to make posts in more rural and remote communities across B.C. more attractive, the provincial B.C. Emergency Health Services agency wants to put a full-time unit chief in Kitwanga.

And it wants to place a full-time community paramedic in the community.

The ambulance service has been building up its community paramedic service elsewhere with the idea that having paramedics visit people in their homes to provide basic services can prevent making emergency calls requiring transport to hospitals.

“Ideally there would be 6-8 on-call staff,” a statement from the emergency health services added in fleshing out the staffing plans.

Kitwanga is one of 15 communities across B.C. where the province wants to put a permanent and full-time unit chief.

Stewart, Port Clements, Sandspit and Atlin in the northwest are on that list in addition to Kitwanga.

Prior to the new model of a full-time unit chief and a full-time community paramedic, the emergency health services commission had tried filling vacancies that would pay less than a full-time paramedic elsewhere and be a combination of being on-shift and on-call.

The full schedule of planned improvements for rural and remote communities announced by the province earlier this year will amount to 271 full-time positions in approximately 60 locations.

In all, the province says it has added more than 1,000 permanent full-time paramedic and emergency medical responder positions, and 42 emergency medical dispatch positions since 2017. Provincial health minister Adrian Dix said the paramedic staffing increases will amount to 271 full-time positions.

The phase-out of the scheduled on-call model plan was part of the three-year collective agreement agreed to by the province with paramedics and dispatchers in February 2023. It covers 2022 to 2025.