The Cumberland Ambulance Station is staffed by 13 part-time paramedics. Scott Stanfield photo

The Cumberland Ambulance Station is staffed by 13 part-time paramedics. Scott Stanfield photo

Changes coming to Cumberland Ambulance Station

The Cumberland Ambulance Station is undergoing some changes which, according to its governing body, will result in regular, permanent paramedic jobs.

BC Emergency Health Services is changing how it serves patients, especially in rural and remote communities. Station 151 is a rural station, with two ambulances, one of which is a spare. It’s staffed by 13 part-time paramedics. It averages one 9-1-1 response call a day. However, as BC Ambulance is a provincial service, Cumberland paramedic units also respond to calls in Courtenay, Campbell River, Bowser, Parksville and Qualicum Beach. These add up to an additional 1,100 calls a year for paramedics attached to the station.

“The identity of the Cumberland Station is not changing,” the BCEHS said in a statement. “It remains a rural station.”

The village is one of about 20 communities in the Vancouver Island region, including the Gulf Islands, that are some of the first to make changes “that will provide permanent paramedic jobs in smaller communities.” The new staffing model for these jobs is called Scheduled On Call (SOC), which refers to a new type of shift that has regularly scheduled on-call hours. This is a change from on-call (casual) work.

The SOC model means shifts can be fully scheduled without waiting for availability of part-time paramedics.

“Implementing the new model will mean improved emergency response coverage and a more stable paramedic workforce.”

Under the new model, BCEHS expects to create at least 170 new positions. There will be more than 50 new regular paramedic positions added in the Vancouver Island region.

Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird was to discuss the situation Thursday with Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne.

“We’re just in the learning process of what is going on,” Baird said. “We’re still investigating. We want to make sure the coverage is there. We’ve got questions, and we want those questions answered.”

The village will share information with the public as soon as it hears further details to help “calm the waters a bit,” she added.

The BCEHS says it is working closely with the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873) to implement the changes.

Paramedics in the impacted on-call positions can apply for new jobs. In many of the smaller stations, there are local hiring provisions in the collective agreement.

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