Williams Lake RCMP are experiencing a ‘sharp increase’ in the number of times they have transported people to the hospital when an ambulance is not available.
“Sometimes we are called because there is no ambulance available or they need our assistance,” Staff Sgt. detachment commander Darren Dodge told the Tribune.
There was one file when the nearest ambulance was in 100 Mile House, he added.
While the number of police officers varies from shift to shift, Dodge noted it is a strain when officers are answering medical calls as first responders.
“We have no problem helping the ambulance and we have no problem when urgent care is needed and no one else can go, but our problem is that we are seeing a dramatic increase in these calls for service,” Dodge said. “We are the people the public calls after hours because there seems to be a lack of services for people in mental health crisis. We are getting called on a regular basis.”
In an email Dodge penned to Mayor Walt Cobb he noted by Aug. 30 police had assisted BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) 92 times already in 2022.
Cobb shared Dodge’s concerns at the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27.
As result a recommendation is going to the regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 4 that the city request a meeting with the Minister of Health to discuss the matter.
BCEHS provided a written response to the Tribune, noting Williams Lake like many other jurisdictions is working to fill vacancies and new positions through recruitment.
This means Williams Lake will have eight additional permanent full-time paramedic positions to staff an ambulance 24/7.
Currently Williams Lake has 11 full-time paramedic positions including two advanced care paramedic positions. The station has a small pool of part-time on call paramedics to fill shifts.
Overall call volume has also increased in Williams Lake.
As of Sept. 27, BCEHS has responded to 119 overdose patient events so far this year, compared to a total of 117 for 2021.
In 2021, BCEHS responded to 12.8% more medical calls (2,479), compared to 2020 (2,161). As of Sept. 27, BCEHS has responded to 1,797 medical calls in Williams Lake.
The BCEHS spokesperson noted in general, police and firefighters do not respond in place of paramedics and that BCEHS will dispatch the closest available ambulance and notify other first responder agencies as needed.
“Generally, BCEHS will request police to attend when there is a safety concern for employees, patients or the public, when police attendance is indicated as a result of possible criminality such as an assault, when there is a sudden unexpected death on scene, when access to the scene or forced entry may be required, when there is a motor vehicle incident with injuries or when there are other situations that require police.
However, we do know there have been instances where police have assisted us with patients and we greatly appreciate their help during these challenging times.”
To help fill the gap, BCEHS has provided funding for emergency medical responder training in several communities such as 100 Mile House where 10 EMRs have been trained.
BCEHS also has been working with the Emergency Medical Assistant Licensing Board (EMALB) in B.C. to expedite access to licensing exams in rural communities, upon completion of the EMR courses. Licensing exams have been secured in 100 Mile House.