Delta intends to train its firefighters to perform a broader range of emergency medical duties that are currently reserved for ambulance paramedics.

Views split on bigger medical role for firefighters

Delta plan for first responders opposed by paramedics union, criticized as downloading

A plan by Delta council to train firefighters to handle more medical duties as emergency first responders is being closely watched by other cities in the Lower Mainland and is under fire from unionized ambulance paramedics.

The proposed three-year pilot project wouldn’t let firefighters transport patients, but they’d be permitted to perform more tasks now reserved for paramedics, including the insertion of artificial airways, testing and treatment of blood glucose levels and administering some medications, such as injections for allergic reactions.

Surrey fire chief Len Garis said it’s “refreshing” that B.C. Emergency Health Services, which runs the ambulance service, has tentatively agreed to authorize the higher level of medical service by firefighters after a previous proposal from Surrey related to triage at motor vehicle accidents was rejected.

He wants to see what evidence comes back from Delta’s project, which still awaits final approval in late October from the Provincial Health Services Authority board.

“If it were improving outcomes and service to the public, I think that’s an incredibly great thing and that would compel others to look at it,” Garis said.

The push for a greater role for firefighter first responders comes after a year of accusations from cities that ambulance service has been severely degraded by the province’s move to reduce the priority for less urgent 911 calls in favour of faster response to critical emergencies.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said Delta’s decision may raise costs for municipal taxpayers and runs contrary to the traditional concern of local governments about downloading by the provincial government.

“The province just decided to reduce their service levels and Delta in this case is deciding to accept it and fill that hole that the ambulance service is not providing,” Moore said.

“As soon as we cross that line we start to become an ambulance service and what’s the next step after that? I think that’s a slippery slope to go down.”

The concept was denounced by Bronwyn Barter, union president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., who called it a costly duplication of service that won’t resolve the problem of longer ambulance wait times.

“The answer for suffering ambulance response times is not sending in firefighters,” she said. “The answer is providing more ambulances staffed with paramedics.”

Michael Hurley, president of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said his organization doesn’t believe Delta’s initiative would threaten ambulance paramedic jobs and would withdraw support if that occurred.

“We believe there are not enough paramedics in the system,” he said, but added expanding firefighter capabilities makes sense.

“It’s pretty hard to be critical of having more highly trained people in your community,” Hurley said. “We’ve been asking for a higher level of training for a long time and especially now due to ambulance waits being longer and longer.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson argues training of most local firefighters to the new Emergency Responder Licence level and making that a requirement for new recruits will also improve the municipality’s ability to respond to a disaster.

“I don’t see it as downloading at all,” Jackson said, adding there are sometimes long waits for an ambulance at calls where firefighters could provide more medical aid.

Pay levels are also on the rise for Delta firefighters – a new contract signed earlier this year gives them wage increases of 2.5 per cent in each of the eight years.

B.C. Emergency Health Services officials said it was too early to comment on the plan.

Just Posted

Evans Road traffic bollards not going anywhere

Chilliwack council turns down school district request for southbound left turns

Opioids, meth, firearms seized at known Chilliwack drug house

Home on Broadway Street raided on Feb. 15 where homicide occurred Jan. 31

GW Graham basketball girls savour Fraser Valley championship

It’s been a long wait for the Grizzlies, who lost the FV title game the last two seasons.

Chilliwack Curling Club holding open house

If you’ve ever wanted to try the sport, the club invites you to take the plunge this weekend.

Chilliwack MLA John Martin says NDP budget will hurt business, punish taxpayers

‘Family-owned businesses will struggle to respond to this’

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

Team USA beats Canada 3-2 on the shootout to take home Olympic gold

Americans win their first gold medal since 1998

Two Haida men detained for crossing U.S.-Canada border

Edenshaw and Frisby travelled from Alaska to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament

Alberta takes out full-page ads in B.C. over strained relationship

It’s the latest move between the two provinces over progress on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

B.C. teacher suspended over allegedly using N-word in worksheets

Trafalgar Elementary teacher under investigation by Vancouver School Board

Toddler swept away in Ontario floods

Toddler missing as flooding forces thousands from their homes in Ontario

BC BUDGET: New money helps seniors’ care shortage

Job stability for care aides key to recruitment, union leader says

Mixed messages on B.C.’s efforts to cool hot housing market

Economist says undersupply of homes in Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna will keep prices high

Foot found near Victoria belonged to missing Washington man

Coroner says no foul play suspected in death of 79-year-old Stanley Okumoto

Most Read