British Columbia Ambulance Service

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British Columbia Ambulance Service
Type Crown Agency
Industry Emergency Medical Services
Founded July 1, 1974
Headquarters British Columbia
Employees 3,982 (January 2011)
Website www.bcas.ca

The British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) is the sole ambulance service and provider of pre-hospital emergency care in the province of British Columbia. BCAS is managed by British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and falls under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). The service is tasked with the provision of emergency medical response province-wide. Today, BC Ambulance is the largest Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider in Canada[citation needed] and one of the largest in North America[citation needed] with a fleet of more than 480 ground ambulances operating from 187 stations across the province along with 47 support vehicles. BCAS provides inter-facility patient transfer services in circumstances where a patient needs to be moved between health care facilities for treatment. BCAS also operates an airevac program that utilizes both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.

History[edit]

Prior to 1974, ambulance services in British Columbia was provided by a mixture of volunteer ambulance brigades, fire departments, funeral homes, and private operators. As a result of recommendations made by the Foulkes Commission's report on health care, titled "Health Security for British Columbians" released in 1973, the Government of British Columbia created the Emergency Health Services Commission (EHSC), which in turn created the BC Ambulance Service on July 4, 1974.

Governance[edit]

In British Columbia, responsibility for the provision of ambulance services is granted to British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) under the auspices of the Emergency and Health Services Act. BCEHS reports to PHSA. The members of the Emergency Health Services Commission act as a Board of Directors to the BC Ambulance Service. The commission membership consists of health service administrators, medical professionals, and government representatives. BCEHS is also responsible for the operation of the BC Patient Transfer Network, which assists physicians when it is necessary to transfer a patient to a higher level of care.

Organization[edit]

There are 187 ambulance stations in British Columbia, including three seasonal stations and the transfer fleet.[citation needed] Stations may be staffed with part-time paramedics, part-time and full-time paramedics, or only full-time paramedics, depending on where the station is located and the number of calls its crews are dispatched to. Each station is headed up by a Unit Chief, who acts as supervisor for the crew at the station.[citation needed] The Unit Chief also handles the day-to-day administrative duties required by the station, including payroll management, overseeing station and ambulance maintenance, and crew scheduling.

Each station falls under the responsibility of a District Superintendent. The District Superintendent has responsibility for the operations of all of the stations within a given district.[citation needed] The size of the district, and the number of stations it encompasses, varies depending on factors such as geography, station size and number of paramedics.

Each BCAS district is part of a larger region, which is headed by an Executive Director. Each District Superintendent is accountable to the Executive Director for that specific region. In some regions, a Director of Operations assists the Executive Director with day-to-day activities. The District Superintendents are accountable to the Executive Director of the region, who in turn reports to the Chief Operating Officer of the BC Ambulance Service.

The BCAS provincial headquarters is located in Victoria, BC. It is staffed by an executive management team, and other support services. The final responsibility for BCAS operations lies with the service's Chief Operating Officer. The Chief Operating Officer is accountable to the Executive Officer, BC Emergency Health Services, who in turn reports to the Board of BC Emergency Health Services.

Staff[edit]

As of January 1, 2012, the BCAS employs 2,237 part-time and 1,532 full-time paramedics and dispatchers for a total of 3,769. There are approximately 350 management and administrative employees in the BCAS.[citation needed]

Emergency medical communication centres[edit]

The BCAS operates four Communication centres located throughout the province. The Vancouver Island Communications Centre (VICC), located in Victoria British Columbia is responsible for all ground ambulance deployment for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands; the Lower Mainland Region Ambulance Communication Centre (LMRACC) deploys all ground ambulances in the Lower Mainland (i.e., Metro Vancouver & the Fraser Valley Regional District), the Sunshine Coast, as far east as Boston Bar and as far north as Pemberton; and the Interior and Northern BC Communications Centre (INBCCC) deploys resources to the remainder of the province, including the southern interior (Okanagan, Cariboo & Kootenays) and northern BC (Skeena, Northern Interior & Peace Regions, representing west-central, east-central and northern areas of the province, respectively). The fourth Communication centre, the Provincial Air Ambulance Coordination Centre (PAACC), is located in Victoria and has responsibility for coordinating and deploying of all air ambulance resources, whether they are used for scene responses, or for inter-facility transfers.

Each Communication centre is staffed with a mixture of Emergency Medical Call Takers (EMCT) and Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMD). The Vancouver Communication system is the largest of the four Centres. A Communication Supervisor who is a barganing unit member, provides line supervisory support to Communication centre staff, with a Director and a Communication Superintendent managing the centre. Other centres have a Charge EMD in the role of Supervisor, with a Superintendent managing the Centre. Training for EMCTs and EMDs is provided in-house by the BC Ambulance Service.

The BC Ambulance Service utilizes the Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System (AMPDS) to triage calls and a customized Resource Allocation Plan (RAP) to allocate First Responders, Primary Care Paramedics, and Advanced Care Paramedics to calls as needed. Communication personnel are current, or former field paramedics, with few exceptions.

Within the Metro Vancouver region, BCAS utilizes the E-Comm Wide-Area Radio Network for one-stop communication between police and fire agencies.

Operations[edit]

The current system designates a given station (or 'Operator') as either Metropolitan, Urban, Rural or Remote. A Remote-designated station typically has a call-volume of less than 500 calls per year and is staffed entirely by part-time EMR and PCP-qualified paramedics; Rural-designated stations usually have a range between 500 to 2000 calls per year and may have a full-time or part-time Unit Chief and might also have a full-time shift pattern for four full-time paramedics during daytime hours.[citation needed] Urban-designated stations generally have call volumes greater than 2000 calls per year and may range up to and over 10,000 calls.[citation needed] A 'Post' is a station with at least one full-time employee or a group of stations that are grouped together based on operational needs. The basic difference between Urban and Metro is that metropolitan posts consist of groups of neighbouring urban posts, each of which has a very high call volume; for example, every station in Vancouver Post is designated Metro. When a post incorporates more than one station, it functions as a unit for the purposes of irregularly-scheduled paramedic deployment (including part-time paramedics attached to the post).

In larger Urban and Metro-designated posts, including stations in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley Regional District (i.e., Abbotsford and Chilliwack), Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Kamloops and Prince George, ground ambulance service is provided by a mix of PCP and ACP-qualified paramedics.[citation needed] In smaller Urban-designated posts (such as Cranbrook, Nelson, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Fort St. John, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Penticton, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Squamish, Whistler, Powell River, Sechelt, Williams Lake and Quesnel) there is a core of four to twelve full-time, regularly scheduled paramedics at the PCP level but there is also a heavy reliance on part-time, irregularly scheduled paramedics who are also trained to the PCP qualification.[citation needed] These auxiliary staff traditionally rely on paged call-outs and need not stay at the station but should remain in relatively close proximity in case of a call.[citation needed]

The first step toward a Metro designation (from Urban) requires a population base of 70,000 to 80,000 people.[citation needed] This will maintain a call-volume around 10,000 calls per year and will warrant the addition of Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) resources to the station (e.g., Chilliwack).[citation needed] Although this may be warranted, additions of Advance Care Paramedics have not kept up with population growth.

The next step would be to split the calls between two separate stations serving a single community (e.g., Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George & Nanaimo).[citation needed] Finally, as in the case of Abbotsford, when the call volume for the two stations combined reaches in excess of 20,000 calls, the station is re-designated as a Metro Post.[citation needed] When there are enough Metro Posts in a given region, they are reorganized into a larger, comprehensive post like Metro Vancouver or Greater Victoria.[citation needed]

Fleet[edit]

Ground response[edit]

Airevac response[edit]

The BCAS is responsible for the delivery of air ambulance services throughout the province of British Columbia. Critical care paramedics are deployed from bases in Prince George, Richmond, Kelowna and Kamloops, Nanaimo, Langley and Vancouver.

BC Ambulance Service Helijet.jpg

Each team is composed of two CCPs who transport all Adult patients and some pediatric patients. The Infant Transport Team (ITT) based out of BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver handles the critical care infant, child, and maternity transports. The ITT have completed advanced training and provide emergency medical care to pediatric, neo-natal and high-risk obstetric patients.

The BC Ambulance Service air ambulance fleet consists of six fixed-wing aircraft, five Beechcraft Super King Air 350 turboprops and one Bombardier Learjet 31A jet.[citation needed] Additional aircraft are chartered on an as-needed basis. The BCAS also operates four dedicated air ambulance helicopters. Two based in Vancouver and one based in both Prince Rupert and Kamloops.[citation needed] BCAS also utilizes approximately 40 pre-qualified charter carriers throughout British Columbia.[citation needed]

Shifts[edit]

There are four different part-time shifts, and five main full-time shifts used at BC Ambulance stations. The two main part-time shifts are designated Kilo and Foxtrot, but Juliet and Mike are also used. The five full-time shifts are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo.[citation needed]

Full-time shift patterns[edit]

An Alpha shift pattern provides continuous coverage with one ambulance and is divided into two 12-hour shifts (0630-1830 & 1830-0630), or a 10-hour day-shift plus a 14-hour night-shift (0800-1800 & 1800-0800), depending on the station. Both Bravo and Charlie shifts are 11 hours long, with Bravo starting in the morning (e.g., 0730-1830) and Charlie starting in the afternoon (e.g., 1300-0000). At busier stations, paramedics may standardly work a Bravo/Charlie pattern where the first two days of the block are on Bravo and the final two days of the block are on Charlie; Charlie patterns are always supplemented by Bravo for peak coverage in the afternoon. Alpha, Bravo and Charlie patterns operate on a platoon cycle of four days on and four days off in a 56-day cycle. This means a 48 hour block for Alpha but, since it is over a period of eight days, averages out to a 42-hour work week. Similarly, for Bravo and Charlie, the block may be 44 hours in duration but the average work week is 38.5 hours.

Delta and Echo patterns differ in that they do not necessarily follow the standard platoon cycle of 'four and four'. Delta, for example, is on a 70-day cycle and provides a 35-hour work week, through various patterns. These shifts may be 12.5 hours long with a "four and six" pattern, a 7-hour shift on a standard Mon-Fri work-week or a 10-hour shift on a "four and three" alternating with "three and four" pattern. Lastly, a Delta pattern may be 10-hour shifts following the regular platoon cycle of "four and four". Delta patterns are almost exclusively reserved for Dispatch but are also used on two Transfer Fleet shift patterns (X-Ray and Uniform). An Echo shift, on the other hand, is 10 hours long and can start at any time during the day depending on the area's needs. If scheduled, it is usually a day shift at a smaller station and is reserved for a full-time Unit Chief and his partner. Echo is also the standard shift pattern for Transfer Fleet but these shifts are called different names according to start time. Echo patterns are typically Tuesday through Friday or Monday through Thursday, providing a 40-hour work week on a 56-day cycle.

None of Bravo, Charlie or Echo patterns provide 24 hour coverage so they are always supplemented by an Alpha car or, in the case of the lower call-volume stations, by Kilo and Foxtrot. Paramedics working these shifts are paid their regular wage regardless of how many calls they attend to. Further, overtime wages are paid when (and only when) a call takes a crew past their scheduled end-time, regardless of whether the shift is 7, 10, 11, 12, 12.5 or 14 hours long.

Part-time shift patterns[edit]

Part-time shifts have their advantages and disadvantages.[citation needed] The main disadvantage is that pay is entirely dependent on the number of calls received, as wages are only paid when a call is dispatched. This is true for Kilo, Foxtrot and Mike shift patterns. The main advantage to being part-time is flexibility, as part-time staff need only submit availability for eight shifts per month but may submit full availability or anywhere in-between, if they wish. The other advantage, when working Kilo, Foxtrot or Mike patterns, is that overtime wages are paid after eight hours of continuous work; overtime is paid only after twelve hours on a Juliet shift. In past years, the majority of paramedics in the smaller communities were local residents who essentially volunteered their time to be on-call as a service to their community. In exchange, they were provided with paid training positions to upgrade their qualifications. Now, the number of locals has decreased significantly and small communities have to rely on long-distance commuters to staff the ambulance stations. The low call volume of these stations, now compounded by the cost of commuting, licensing requirements and the initial cost of training, makes it cost-prohibitive for many new recruits who want to break into the career. Most smaller stations see a "revolving door" of new recruits who stay just long enough to pass their probation so they can transfer to a busier station or to one near their home. Community-based stations like Toad River and Pink Mountain have been forced to close due to a lack of staff. It is not uncommon for paramedics at stations with lower call volumes to have to have a second job and/or submit only minimal availability. Alternatively, paramedics may choose to submit "full availability", to maximize the number of shifts alloted and organize their life around their schedule. Some stations will schedule paramedics for up to 90% of their sunbmitted availability; others will require 10% or less.

Kilo shifts are strictly on-call and paramedics respond to a pager. A kilo-responding paramedic must answer a page by calling dispatch within two minutes but there is no requirement to arrive at the station within a set time. However, most on-call paramedics carry their uniform with them and do not engage in any activity that they cannot drop at a moments notice (including other employment obligations). Each Kilo call-out generates a minimum of four hours of pay, as long as the crew returns to the station before each successive call. In busier Kilo stations, due to this tiering effect, paramedics can make more money in a shift than a full-time employee working the same number of hours but it is still quite unreliable. The Kilo stipend, called "pager pay", is currently set at $2.00 per hour and is paid regardless of whether work is performed during the shift. There is no pager pay for working past the end of a shift, unless the same paramedic is scheduled for back-to-back kilo shifts. On-call paramedics are not expected to perform any duties and need not even be at the station until they receive a page out. For local residents who are hired as paramedics, this type of shift works well, as they can stay home during their shift or engage in other activities. For non-locals who have to commute, this can be quite problematic if it is a station with low call volume. This shift pattern makes it difficult to have a "life", since a long transfer mat be dispatched to a crew at the very end of their shift. There is no extra compensation for working past your scheduled hours, unless it is in excess of eight continuous hours.

Foxtrot is a compromise between a full-time shift and a Kilo shift. Paramedic crews on this shift pattern are said to be on "standby" and are required to be in their ambulance within 90 seconds of the page or phone call, just like a regular full-time unit. The Foxtrot stipend is currently $11.12 per hour and is increased to the full hourly wage for a minimum of three hours when a call is dispatched to the crew. As with Kilo, the crew is not expected to perform any duties while on standby. Should a call come in, the crew is considered to be "activated" for 3 hours and is under the direction of your dispatcher for that time. Unlike Kilo, if another call is dispatched to the crew within those three hours, no further pay is accumulated. After the three-hour window or on returning to the station past the three-hour activation period, the crew returns to standby status until another call is dispatched.

Mike patterns are uncommon but they behave like Kilo cars that are pre-booked for transfers in busy regions or for event upstaffing so their shifts tend to be quite long and involve a lot of overtime. Scheduled Mike cars get $2.00 per hour Pager Pay.

Juliet shifts are 12-hours long and are normally prescheduled but may be authorized as a last-minute stopgap measure. They are staffed by part-time or irregularly-scheduled full-time paramedics and may begin at any time. Typically, Juliet shifts are used to up-staff a station or region in cases of expected high call-volume or to back-fill for a crew that has left on an airevac.

Transfer Fleet patterns[edit]

The Transfer Fleet that operates out of many Vancouver Post and Fraser Valley stations is used for routine and stat transfers. It is its own separate post, called B88 (B = 2, for Region 2). In principle, these units are meant to ease the workload of the Emergency Fleet and ensure those are available for emergency calls. At the inception of the Transfer Fleet, all units were designated Tango but they are currently called by different names, depending on their start time. With some exceptions, their shifts follow the Echo pattern, as outlined above. Notably, Papa imitates the Bravo pattern, as it is an 11-hour shift on a platoon cycle.

In smaller posts, Kilo is first choice for transfers so that the duty car (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Echo or Foxtrot) can be available for emergencies. In practice, the duty car may be used for short transfers within the normal response area, especially if Kilo (or Foxtrot) are occupied. While Sechelt's Mike car is a call-out transfer car, it is attached to station 235-Sechelt and not the B88-Transfer Fleet. This is the last remaining, scheduled Mike car[citation needed] (214-Hope had "14Mike" until the end of 2007 but the resource was reallocated to 206-Chilliwack for a Charlie car while the Foxtrot Nights went to 24 hours. Prior to the change, "06Bravo" would switch to "06Foxtrot" at the end of the shift.).[citation needed] "35Mike" shifts can be extraordinally long, due to the ferry trip at the end of their shift.[citation needed]

Transfer Fleet

Shift Patterns

Pattern Lima Mike Oscar Papa Romeo Uniform Victor X-Ray
0600-1300 Weekday
0600-1600 Echo
0700-1800 7 Days
0700-1700 Echo
0800-1900 Platoon
0900-1900 Echo
0900-1600 Weekday Weekday
1000-2000 Echo

Training[edit]

Paramedics in BC obtain their initial training before employment by pursuing either their EMR or PCP License at their own cost.

EMR training is available through a variety of instructional agencies throughout the province. EMR courses that are approved by the EMA Licensing Board include those offered by the College of the Rockies, Paramedic Academy of the Justice Institute of BC (JIBC), the Academy of Emergency Training, EMP Canada, Life Support British Columbia, First Aid Certified Training Systems, Vancouver Island University Centre for Continuing Studies and Okanagan College Continuing Studies.

Primary Care Paramedic training is offered by College of the Rockies, the Paramedic Academy of the Justice Institute of BC and the Academy of Emergency Training. Advanced Care Paramedic training is only available through the Paramedic Academy. All ITT and CCP training is conducted 'in-house' by BCAS Clinical Education Division in conjunction with BC Women's, BC Children's, Vancouver General, St. Paul's hospitals and BCIT.

The EMA Licensing Board maintains a list of approved training agencies available to potential students. Those students who do not complete one of the approved courses will not be permitted to apply for a licensing examination.

Clinical Education is the Division of BC Ambulance Service that provides Paramedic development once a Paramedic has been hired. The main goal of the Clinical Education Division is to support the delivery of quality patient care through curriculum development and course presentation. A new employee can expect to be offered about 11 courses of paid training in their first six months of service. These courses may include:

  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) 1-5
  • CPR/AED Update
  • PEPP, Trauma 1
  • Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting
  • Driving Level 1
  • Introduction to Treatment Guidelines
  • Safety Awareness for Emergency Responders (SAFER).

In addition, new employees must pass a driving preceptorship prior to being allowed to drive Code 3 (lights & sirens). BCAS fosters an environment of lifelong learning and offers a combination of face-to-face and online educational opportunities for Paramedic development.

Licensing and qualifications[edit]

Paramedics qualified in British Columbia are broadly referred to as Emergency Medical Assistants and are licensed by the Emergency Medical Assistants (EMA) Licensing Board (EMALB), a government agency, under one of five categories:

BC Ambulance Service Badge

EMR and PCP are Basic Life Support (BLS) qualifications while ACP is an Advanced Life Support (ALS) qualification; ITT has some pediatric advanced protocols; CCP has a whole different scope of practice. BCAS protocols are universal protocols which a qualified practitioner may employ at any time, up to his or her license qualification, within the provincial borders, given that the required equipment is at hand. Licencing qualifications and endorsements can be found in the EMA Regulations under Schedule 1 and Schedule 2.

Emergency medical responder (EMR)[edit]

An EMR licensee is qualified to deliver a limited number of medications, under the class of 'symptom relief', including ASA, Nitrous Oxide, Nitroglycerin SL and Oral Glucose. They are also qualified in the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and may monitor an existing IV line. Their protocols include Cardiac Arrest, Cardiac Chest Pain, Diabetic Emergencies and management of pain using Entonox. The "Schedule 2" endorsements appear as "Symptom Relief" and "IV Maint".

Schedule 1 - EMR Licence Qualifications:[citation needed]

  • scene assessment;
  • assessment of level of consciousness, skin colour and temperature, pulse, and respiration;
  • rapid body survey to identify and attend to any life-threatening injuries followed by a secondary assessment consisting of a physical examination, medical and incident history, and vital signs;
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation;
  • basic wound and fracture management;
  • maintenance of airways and ventilation.
  • use of airway management techniques including oropharyngeal airways, oral suction devices and oxygen-supplemented mask devices to assist ventilation;
  • use of an automatic or semi-automatic external defibrillator;
  • cervical collar application and spinal immobilization on a long spine board;
  • administration of oxygen;
  • administration of oral glucose;
  • emergency childbirth;
  • ventilation using pocket mask and bag/valve/mask devices.
  • occupational first aid;
  • lifting/loading, extrication/evacuation and transportation;
  • cervical collar application and spinal immobilization on a long spine board;
  • blood pressure assessment by auscultation and palpation;
  • emergency fracture management/immobilization;
  • oropharyngeal airway suctioning;
  • oxygen administration and equipment;
  • administration of semi-automatic or automatic external defibrillator;
  • soft tissue injury treatment.

Schedule 2 - EMR Licence Endorsements:[citation needed]

  • maintenance of intravenous lines without medications or blood products while transporting persons between health facilities;
  • use and interpretation of a pulse oximeter;
  • administration of the following oral, sublingual or inhaled medications;
    • anti-anginal;
    • anti-hypoglycemic agent;
    • analgesic;
    • platelet inhibitors;
  • use and interpretation of a glucometer;
  • chest auscultation.

Primary care paramedic (PCP)[edit]

The vast majority of Paramedics in BC practice at this level.[citation needed]

In addition to the EMR protocols, PCP licensees have protocols for Shortness of Breath (SOB), Anaphylaxis, Narcotic Overdose, an expanded Diabetic Emergencies and a catch-all for patients with a decreased level of consciousness Not Yet Diagnosed (NYD) that combines the Diabetic/Hypoglycemic and Narcotic OD protocols. PCP-qualified paramedics may also be endorsed for intravenous cannulation (PCP-IV) and will have an additional protocol for Hypovolemia as well as enhancements to the anaphylaxis, diabetic, narcotic OD and NYD protocols. Additional PCP-level medications include Salbutamol (Ventolin), Naloxone HCL (Narcan), Glucagon, Epinephrine HCL (Adrenaline), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Thiamine (Betaxin), Dextrose 10% (D10W) and Normal Saline. While 'protocols' were the old method of running medical calls, the service's medical oversight has recently introduced a new set of 'Treatment Guidelines', which is a more generalized framework within which paramedics can operate with more flexibility. For instance, the "Unconscious NYD" protocol no longer exists, as paramedics are expected to understand how to search for an etiology of a patient's decreased level of consciousness and intervene as necessary, instead of following through an algorithm like robots. In addition, chest pain patients can now be treated with the appropriate interventions in mind for those suffering from various forms of acute coronary syndrome, rather than a catch-all protocol for any ischemic-like episodes.

The "Schedule 2" endorsements appear on the PCP licence as "IV" or "ET". Normally, an ET endorsement is not awarded unless the paramedic practitioner has voluntarily downgraded from ACP to PCP and there were no previous issues with field intubations. At this point, the PCP-ET would simply have an adjunct to assist in Cardiac Arrest management. With increased labour mobility between the provinces, some paramedics from other jurisdictions will see restrictions such as for Narcan, Thiamine, Antihistamine or Entonox. Former EMA 2 Paramedics will also see an IM restriction since they were not technically trained how to perform an intramuscular injection.

Schedule 1 - PCP Licence Qualifications

  • all EMR Skills and Endorsements;
  • administration of the following intravenous, intra-muscular, subcutaneous, oral, sublingual, inhaled or nebulized medications:
    • narcotic antagonist
    • bronchodilator
    • anti-histaminic
    • sympathomimetic agent

Schedule 2 - PCP Licence Endorsements

  • initiation of peripheral intravenous lines;
  • administration of the following intravenous fluids and medications:
    • anti-hypoglycemic agent,
    • isotonic crystalloid solutions, or
    • vitamin B1;
  • King extra-glottic device (rescue airway).

Infant Transport Team (ITT)[edit]

ITT paramedics are specifically trained for critical care of perinatal, neonatal and pediatric patients. They respond as an equally qualified team of two and sometimes take a physician with them for critically ill patients. When dispatched on street calls these are targeted response ambulances that often assist or intervene when necessary, but can hand a more stable patient off to a layered or co-responding PCP ambulance. The team currently consists of only 26 specially trained paramedics for the entire province.

In addition to the PCP protocols and medications, they may also administer Acetaminophen, Adenosine, Atropine Sulphate, Calcium Chloride, Dextrose 50%, Dimenhydrinate (Gravol), Hemabate, Indomethacin, Lorazepam, Magnesium Sulphate, Midazolam (Versed), Morphine Sulphate, Ondansetron, Oxytocin, Sodium Bicarbonate and Out-of-Scope medications with orders from a CCTA. ITT paramedics have their own unique set of prehospital treatment guidelines that mirror ACP guidelines in the areas of pediatrics, having the ability to treat respiratory/cardiac arrest and disrhythmias. The ITT practitioner also has adult ACLS guidelines and intubation in the event they encounter an adult cardiac arrest.

Their additional training and skills include the use and monitoring of Incubators, Endotracheal (ET) Intubation, Intraosseous (IO) Access, nasogastric (NG) tube insertion and suctioning, manual defibrillation, cardioversion, chest decompression, Venous pressure monitoring, Arterial & Central Line Monitoring, Chest Tube Management, transthoracic pacing, Blood Product Infusion, IV Infusion Devices, 'IV with Medication' Maintenance, Mechanical Ventilation (using the LTV 1000 and 1200 and BMD CrossVent), Foreign body removal with laryngoscope, ET/IO/PR drug administration, Central & Parenteral Line Management, Venous & Arterial blood sample collection, point of collection analysis of ABG's and chemistry using the I-Stat, Lab & X-ray interpretation.

The ITT paramedics also transport pediatric and adult ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) patients with a perfusionist from BC Children's.

While there are some areas of overlap between ACP and ITT, the additional ITT 'Airevac' class of skills that are not included in the standard ACP skill-set are Venous Pressure Monitoring, Arterial & Central Line Monitoring, Chest Tube Management, Blood Product Infusion, Mechanical Ventilation, nitric oxide delivery systems and Out-of-Scope Medications by orders.

Schedule 1 - ITT Licence Qualifications

  • all PCP Skills and Endorsements;
  • nasopharyngeal airway;
  • insertion and maintenance of advanced airway devices which do not require laryngoscopy;
  • direct laryngoscopy and endotracheal intubation;
  • electrocardiogram rhythm interpretation, cardioversion, external pacing and manual defibrillation;
  • initiation and maintenance of intraosseous needle cannulation;
  • administration of colloid and non-crystalloid volume expanders;
  • use and interpretation of end tidal CO2 monitoring devices;
  • maintenance of intravenous routes using intermittent infusion devices;
  • mechanical ventilation - adult, pediatric and neonatal;
  • maintenance and monitoring of arterial and central venous catheters;
  • gastric intubation and suction;
  • management of chest tubes and chest drainage systems;
  • intravenous blood product administration;
  • management of parenteral feeding lines and equipment;
  • use of incubators for thermoregulation;
  • administration of the following intravenous, oral, nebulized, endotracheal, intraosseous, intramuscular and rectal medications:
    • anti-arrhythmic
    • bronchodilator
    • anti-pyretic
    • anti-cholinergic
    • anti-hypoglycemic agent
    • sedative (anti-epileptic)
    • anti-emetic (anti-nauseant)
    • histamine antagonist
    • anti-convulsant
    • alkalizer;
  • administration of virtually any medication on consult with a Transport Advisor.

Schedule 2 - ITT Licence Endorsements

  • None

Advanced care paramedic (ACP)[edit]

Although there are relatively few ACP-staffed ambulances compared to PCP, the majority of the population is covered by ALS service. These are targeted response units with two ACP-qualified paramedics. They are able to defer transport of a more stable patient to a layered or co-responding PCP ambulance. This ensures that most patients have access to ACP but that the resource is not tied up on a call they are not needed on. It also ensures that ACP-qualified paramedics treat a "critical mass" of the most acutely ill patients, thereby maintaining their high skill level.

ACP paramedics have protocols to administer all PCP plus Adenosine, Calcium Chloride, Dextrose 50%, Dimenhydrinate (Gravol), Furosemide (Lasix), Heparin, Ipratropium Bromide (Atrovent), Lidocaine, Morphine Sulphate and Amiodarone (Cordarone). Their additional skills include synchronized cardioversion, airway isolation devices, endotracheal intubation, end-tidal CO2 monitoring, external jugular vein cannulation, transcutaneous pacing, IV colloid/crytalloid volume expanders, nasopharangeal airways, needle thoracentesis and surgical or needle cricothyrotomy.

Schedule 1 - ACP Licence Qualifications

  • all PCP Skills and Endorsements;
  • electrocardiogram rhythm interpretation, cardioversion, external pacing and manual defibrillation;
  • initiation and maintenance of intraosseous needle cannulation;
  • nasopharyngeal airway;
  • maintenance of intravenous routes using intermittent infusion devices, including IV pumps;
  • initiation of external jugular vein cannulation;
  • cricothyrotomy and needle thoracentesis;
  • gastric intubation and suction;
  • maintenance of intravenous lines with medications;
  • insertion and maintenance of advanced airway devices which do not require laryngoscopy;
  • use and interpretation of end tidal CO2 monitoring devices;
  • administration of colloid and non-crystalloid volume expanders;
  • administration of the following intravenous, oral, nebulized, endotracheal, intraosseous, intramuscular and rectal medications:
    • anti-arrhythmic
    • electrolyte (calcium therapy)
    • diuretic
    • anti-coagulant
    • narcotic
    • anti-pyretic
    • anti-cholinergic
    • sedative
    • anti-emetic (anti-nauseant)
    • histamine antagonist
    • anti-convulsant
    • alkalizer.

Schedule 2 - ACP Licence Endorsements

  • mechanical ventilation;
  • administration of drug therapy on the direct order of a Transport Advisor;
  • urinary catheterization;
  • arterial line management and central venous pressure monitoring;
  • infusion of blood products;
  • point of care testing using capillary, venous or arterial sampling;
  • collect arterial and venous blood samples;
  • interpret laboratory and radiologic data;
  • perform and interpret 12-lead ECGs;
  • chest tube management;
  • central line management;
  • management of parenteral feeding lines and equipment;
  • provide trans-venous pacing.

Critical care paramedic (CCP)[edit]

CCPs are paired in British Columbia.

To become qualified at this level, experienced ACP paramedics take further training consisting of a portion of the CCRN program through BCIT, followed by an intensive hospital-based program through St. Paul's Hospital. Next, there is a work experience portion, and finally, CCP licensure. Formerly, an ACP could take a much shorter course and receive a "Full Schedule 2" endorsement.

CCP's have standard operating guidelines for common critical patients; SIRS/Sepsis, RSI, Chest decompression, Ventilation strategies using the LTV 1000 and 1200, ACS and coronary care, etc. CCP paramedics sometimes take an intensivist with them, but consult with Critical Care Transport advisors.

CCP qualifications follow the NOCP guidelines as endorsed by the Paramedic Association of Canada. In addition to standard ACP protocols, the CCP can perform Schedule 2 ACP skills and procedures as well as administer virtually any medication following assessment and consult with the Critical Care Transport Advisor (CCTA). CCTAs are essential to both the air-evacuation and ground critical care transport programs.

Schedule 1 - CCP Licence Qualifications

  • All ACP Skills and Endorsements
  • arterial line placement.

Schedule 2 - CCP Licence Endorsements

  • None

Wages and benefits[edit]

Wages are paid according to license qualification, years of service and supervisory status. For full-time employees, there is also a difference based on whether the paramedic is regularly or irregularly scheduled. As of April 1, 2009, the starting wage for an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) is $19.29 per hour; for a Primary Care Paramedic (PCP), it is $20.57 per hour or $21.19 per hour with an IV endorsement (PCP-IV); and the call-out wage for an Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) starts at $27.91 per hour.[citation needed] For the first 6 years of employment, part-time employees are given 11% in lieu of benefits and 6% vacation pay on top of their wage. After their six-year employment anniversary, part-time employees are given some medical and dental benefits which start at the beginning of the next fiscal year and they lose the 11% in lieu of benefits.[citation needed] The first (and only significant) wage increase for part-time employees is at five years of service and brings the respective qualifications up to $23.91, $25.15, $25.78 and $31.20 per hour.[citation needed]

Part Time Wage Scale[citation needed]
Adjusted D.O.H.* EMR PCP PCP-IV ACP
Base = D.O.H. $19.29 $20.57 $21.19 $27.91
Adj. D.O.H. +5 Years $23.91 $25.15 $25.78 $31.20
Adj. D.O.H. +10 Years $24.16 $25.41 $26.03 $31.45
Adj. D.O.H. +15 Years $24.38 $25.63 $26.25 $31.67
Adj. D.O.H. +20 Years $24.67 $25.91 $26.54 $31.96
Adj. D.O.H. +25 Years $24.90 $26.14 $26.77 $32.19

(* D.O.H. may be adjusted if a part-time paramedic does not submit at least eight shifts of availability to their primary operator in a given month.)

Full-time wages are salary-based but an hourly wage is often referred to as shorthand for calculation of overtime. Without getting into details, the hourly rate for a full-time, regularly scheduled employee on an Alpha pattern with three years experience at that license qualification is as follows;

EMR (i.e., Transfer Fleet): $27.86 per hour; PCP: $29.33; PCP-IV: $30.05; ACP: $36.40; ITT/CCP: $37.90.[citation needed]

Generally, part-time seniority does not count toward any full-time seniority or pay scale. The only exception is that a part-time paramedic who responds to 300 calls per year will receive one year's experience pay for each of (up to) three years when going full-time. That is to say, a part-time paramedic with at least 900 calls equally divided over three years will start at the 3-Year pay scale when accepting a full-time position.[citation needed] In the table below, for the ACP, ITT and CCP wage columns, it is assumed that the wage increments for 10, 15, 20 and 25 year marks are at the 3-year experience pay level.[citation needed] This is meant to show what an established paramedic at that licence qualification could expect in a full-time position. Once a paramedic reaches the third year of experience pay, further increments average $0.29 every five years; after 25 years, only $1.15 per hour ($2511.60 annually) is gained on top of the three-year experience pay. This reflects "years of service", rather than "experience" per se.[citation needed]

Full-Time Wage Scale[citation needed]*
Experience Pay EMR PCP PCP-IV ACP ITT CCP
Base $22.48 $23.95 $24.68 $32.56 $34.06 $34.06
1 Year $24.21 $25.68 $26.41 $34.34 $35.84 $35.84
2 Years $25.94 $27.41 $28.14 $35.90 $37.40 $37.40
3 Years $27.86 $29.33 $30.05 $36.40 $37.90 $37.90
10 Years $28.15 $29.62 $30.34 $36.69 $38.19 $38.19
15 Years $28.43 $29.91 $30.63 $36.97 $38.47 $38.47
20 Years $28.72 $30.19 $30.92 $37.26 $38.76 $38.76
25 Years $29.01 $30.48 $31.21 $37.55 $39.05 $39.05

(* Regularly Scheduled; Three Years Experience; Alpha Pattern)

Although these wage scales reflect what a BCAS Paramedic will earn "on paper", these wages are "factored" through a complicted formula whereas the wages are reduced significantly.

Labour Mobility[edit]

With the introduction of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), the process of transferring one's licensure between provincial jurisdictions has been streamlined.

Hiring process[edit]

The basic requirements to become employed by the BCAS as of August 15, 2007 are:

  • A valid EMR, PCP, ITT, ACP or CCP license issued by the Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board;
  • A valid Class 1, 2 or 4 BC Driver's License. If Class 4, then 'unrestricted' is preferred.
  • Proof of a 'safe and competent' driving history as demonstrated by a Driver's Licence Abstract;
  • A CPR Level 'C' (or HCP) certificate, valid within one year, also known as "BCLS";
  • Legal entitlement to work in Canada;
  • At least 19 years of age;
  • Grade 12 Graduation diploma or equivalent;
  • Satisfactory Criminal Record Search and Criminal Record Review Act Search;
  • Fit to safely perform the duties of a paramedic as measured through a medical and physical pre-employment assessment;
  • Be of good character;
  • Be available on a regular basis for ambulance duty.

At this time, EMR-qualified staff are only permitted to work in remote and rural stations and must upgrade to PCP if they wish to further their career with the BCAS, including lateral transfers to an Urban or Metro-designated station on a part-time basis or application for a full-time posting. The exceptions to this rule include applications to one of the Dispatch Centres or to the Metro Vancouver Transfer Fleet, both of which require only an EMR qualification; these are internal applications for current BCAS employees only.

Prospective employees are required to pay for their own training. EMR courses currently cost around $1,410, and a $450 charge for an EMA licensing exam. PCP training costs approximately $6,000, as well as the EMA licensing exam fee. PCP training also requires 6 months of full-time classroom and on car practicum time, so applicants should be aware that they will also be out of work for 6 months while training, which could put total costs as high as $20,000 - $30,000.[citation needed]

If the above requirements are not able to be fully met, the applicant can still contact a Unit chief in their local community for further information on applying. For example, in cases of extreme staff shortages, an attendant may be hired as a "Driver Only" if he or she holds only a Level 3 Occupational First Aid (OFA 3) Certificate or equivalent (OFA 3 is not a prerequisite for an EMR license but it is the current industry standard in BC for remote or high-risk workplaces).[citation needed]

With the abolishment of mandatory retirement, paramedics may work past the age of 65 as part-time employees. Once they retire from full-time service, they must be off work for a period of one month after which they may reapply to become employed by the BCAS in a part-time capacity; it is the pension corporation that requires a formal severance of employment prior to the pension benefits being activated. The details of this process have yet to be fully fleshed out.

On average, it takes approximately 3 to 6 months before an applicant is granted an interview.[citation needed] The interview consists of a behavioural interview with a panel of two to three Unit chiefs (and may include a Regional Superintendent or HR personnel) and is approximately 1 hour long. It may be held at a regional Human Resources office or at a given ambulance station where the applicant is under consideration. The interview follows the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. If the applicant has not yet completed a PCP program, there will also be a written exam based on OFA 3 knowledge of first aid and anatomy. After an applicant completes the interview he or she will not find out the results for another 1–3 months. If unsuccessful at the interview stage, the applicant may be told he or she cannot re-apply for a period of 6 months.

If the applicant passes the interview, they are entered into the hiring pool and ranked according to their score on the written exam and interview. From this point, the prospective employee may be contacted by a Unit chief that is hiring. After passing the interview stage, a physical fitness assessment, a medical assessment and two criminal record checks will be conducted. Assuming all goes well, the applicant is then hired into the service at a specific ambulance station, called a 'primary operator'. Once issued an employee number, they are deemed eligible to work and the employee enters into a six-month probationary period. If the applicant is hired as underqualified (i.e., hired without a Class 4 driver's license or other specific training), conditions of probation may be imposed such that the person must obtain certain qualifications before their probation is up or they may be released from the service. During probation, a paramedic may not move to another station (called a lateral transfer) or work at any other BCAS station (often called working at a 'secondary operator'). The probationary period may be extended at the discretion of the Executive Director; this requires both the signature of the Unit Chief and the District Superintendent, as well as notification to the individual prior to the extension.

Full-time vs. part-time[edit]

All employees hired start as part-time employees. New hires generally start at a Remote or Rural-designated station until passed 6-month probation period and have enough seniority to transfer to another station. Sometimes it can take up to a year and a half before another position becomes available.[citation needed]

Research initiatives[edit]

Uniform issue[edit]

Rank and qualification insignia[edit]

The BC Ambulance Service is a uniformed organization and as such, has a similar rank structure to most police or fire departments. The medical qualifications of a uniformed member are denoted with collar insignia, commonly known as 'collar dogs', while rank is denoted using epaulettes. Excluded management and administrative employees in regional offices and provincial headquarters do not wear uniforms, generally preferring a 'jeans day' clothing policy throughout the week.[citation needed]

Current qualifications designated by collar dogs include EMR, PCP (formerly EMA1 and EMA2), ACP, ITT, EMCT and EMD. The EMR and PCP levels are shown on bronze and silver circles, respectively, forming the BCAS logo, along with a circumform bar below, denoting the EMR or PCP qualification. ACP (formerly EMA3/ALS) and ITT (Infant Transport Team) paramedics are recognized with gold cauducei, with either "ALS" or "Neonatology" imprinted upon them. CCP (Critical Care Paramedics) have a gold coloured shield with blue star of life and CCP on it. Within the Communication Centres, EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher) and EMCT (Emergency Medical Call Taker) are designated by gold and silver shields, respectively.

For rank insignia, Paramedics and dispatchers who hold the position of Unit Chief or Charge Dispatcher wear a black epaulette with three gold stripes. District Supervisors and Dispatch Supervisors wear the same coloured epaulette with four gold stripes while Dispatch Officers wear two gold stripes. Ranks above District Supervisor are management positions and are distinguished by a varying number of pips on their epaulette. District and Platoon Superintendents wear an epaulette with three pips, Managers wear one pip and one crown, Directors wear two pips and one crown and the Executive Director of a region will wear three pips plus a crown. Each station and dispatch centre has a staff member designated as its Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) representative. These paramedics and dispatchers are identified with a black epaulette with a single royal blue bar. Staff who are designated as OSH representatives hold no supervisory authority, but are available to assist staff with safe work practices. BC Ambulance instructional staff wear a black epalette with the word "INSTRUCTOR" embroidered in gold, facing laterally.

Shoulder flashes for field staff are royal blue with gold trim, and include the British Columbia Coat of Arms, with the words "Ambulance" above, and "British Columbia" below, both in white. Shoulder flashes for management personnel are navy blue with a navy blue trim. The layout of the shoulder flash is the same for both.

Other pins and insignia[edit]

  • Service Bars - issued one for every five years service with BCAS or combined time with another bona fide EMS agency.
  • Line of Duty Death Pin - worn only in the event of a BCAS line-of-duty death or during Paramedic Appreciation Week, the first seven days of July.
  • 25, 30 and 40-year Service Pins - issued after the designated years of service, full- and part-time inclusive.
  • Union Pins - permitted one on a uniform at any given time.
  • Stork Pin - awarded when a BLS crew performs a pre-hospital delivery in the absence of ITT or ALS.
  • Q-Pin- A pin awarded after a crew member, a unit chief or someone of the public notices a member performing with outstanding quality.

Uniform Colour[edit]

As of Thursday, August 4, 2011 the BCAS has officially changed from the traditional white and blue uniform to an all blue uniform. The gold trim on the shoulder flash was also lost. Some paramedics are concerned about being mistaken as police or firefighters. The new uniforms are said to be more durable and stain resistant.[citation needed]

Labour relations[edit]

Ambulance paramedics, emergency medical call-takers, and emergency medical dispatchers are members of the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC) Local 873 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Provincial headquarters and administrative staff are members of the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU).

The collective agreement between the APBC and the EHSC expired on March 31, 2009. A strike vote was taken prior to the expiry of the prior collective agreement and the result was 97% of APBC in favour of a strike. Despite being legally on strike, the essential services order (ESO) handed down by the Labour Relations Board (LRB) stated that 100% of APBC's work was considered essential, and therefore could not withdraw any frontline work.[citation needed]

On November 2, 2009, the Minister of Health Services tabled Bill 21, titled the Ambulance Services Collective Agreement Act.[1] Bill 21 was back-to-work legislation for APBC. This bill came under intense scrutiny, and is considered to be unprecedented in Canadian labour history.[citation needed] The reason for this is because the government began tabling the legislation while APBC was in the process of conducting a vote on the government's latest contract offer. The terms of Bill 21 were virtually the same as the contract offer being voted on.

The government's reasoning behind enacting Bill 21 was the H1N1 influenza pandemic, stating they needed all branches of the healthcare service at 100% efficiency and operational levels. The government also accused paramedics of not working mandatory overtime shifts despite the terms of the ESO.[2] The other reason provided was that the government had concern over BCAS managers required to work upward of 80 hours per week during the strike due to striking paramedics failing to carry out basic paperwork duties.

Further complicating the legislation is a leaked memo from the Medical Director of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) sent to the government. In the memo is the following section: "VANOC Medical Services (and thus the IOC) requires definitive confirmation by Oct 1 2009 that all required ambulance services will be provided as planned. These services include the ability to engage the VCs and BCAS members in full venue planning as soon as possible. This confirmation must also include a guarantee that no services during the Games will be disrupted or reduced from what has been planned. If we are unable to obtain that guarantee (through either settlement of the strike or a legislated "detente" for the Games), then VANOC will be required to initiate contigency plans to avoid cancellation of the Games."[3]

On November 7, 2009, the Ambulance Services Collective Agreement Act achieved Royal Assent, after an overnight debate until the Act was passed. The terms of the Act specify a 3% general wage increase for APBC members, retroactive to April 1, 2009. None of the operational issues raised by APBC (staffing shortages, rural deployment issues, recruitment and retention challenges, longer response times) are addressed in this Act. The Act will expire on March 31, 2010, shortly after the conclusion of the Olympics. APBC and BCAS will be in a position to re-open negotiations for the next collective agreement in December 2009, a few weeks after being handed the legislated contract.[citation needed]

Community involvement[edit]

  • Highschool CPR
  • Vital Link Award

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]