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Terrace Ambulance Station open house addresses paramedic shortage in northern B.C.

Terrace’s paramedic service has grown dramatically, but five full-time positions remain, BCEHS says

BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is working hard to address the shortage of paramedics in the region, including in Terrace.

In an effort to engage the community and encourage members of the public to join the field, BCEHS hosted an open house at the Terrace Ambulance Station on April 11.

The open house provided a unique opportunity for anyone interested in the field to learn more about the career of a paramedic and meet the people who serve their community.

Northern B.C., including Terrace, has experienced a shortage of ambulances and paramedics in recent years. This shortage is a symptom of the strain COVID-19 has had on the healthcare system and potentially could have an impact on the response time and quality of emergency services in the region.

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By hosting open houses like this one, BCEHS aims to expose more people to the field of emergency health services and encourage them to consider a career as a paramedic.

BCEHS Clinical Operations Manager Tom Soames says increases in staffing levels, salaries and benefits are having an impact on recruitment and easing those labour shortages.

“Two years ago, we had four full-time positions in Terrace. And so we had a fairly large casual pool at the time,” he said. “A year ago, we bumped that up to nine full-time employees.”

“And since that time to today, we now have 22 full-time positions in Terrace,” he said. “We have five yet to fill.”

The difference, he says, between casual and full-time is the vacation time and extra benefits that make a career in the field “more attractive.”

The open house in Terrace is not the only one in the north, nor the only method of recruitment.

“We’re also looking at a new program within the service to offer EMR (emergency medical response) courses in high schools,” he said. “And, actually, training teachers to be the instructors.”

BCEHS Patient Care Delivery Director for Northern BC Deb Trumbley says a recent partnership with local First Nations communities and the Hackett Strait Educational Development Society last September trained 11 students and resulted in eight coming to work for BCEHS — all Indigenous.

Trumbley says BCEHS is looking to replicate that and Haida Gwaii is also interested in doing the same.

BCEHS also hopes to host another open house in Terrace in the first week of June.

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