Staffing for the Quesnel ambulance service is no longer situation critical.
All across the province – and the smaller the town seemingly the harsher the situation – paramedic numbers have been skrinking towards crisis levels. The signs were beginning before the pandemic. BC Emergency Health Services, overseers of the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS), was no more immune than any other industry to the wave of retirements and employment disruptions rolling through the national workforce.
A sure sign of the times, literally, was attached to the ambulance entered in the Billy Barker Days Parade. The driver, Lora-Lee Murray, was openly recruiting with a Help Wanted poster on the side.
When at full operational capacity, Quesnel has a contingent of 20 full-time staff, plus part-timers involved in the scheduling mix, with two ambulances on duty at all times and a third at the ready if needed.
Murray explained that Quesnel was in the enviable position of recently getting back to workable levels again, without having to rely as much on service being provided by out-of-town paramedics or local fire departments stepping in where a BCAS responder would normally be. There would always be a little of that, she said, and that mutual aid is built right into their emergency response business model, but no community wants that to be the norm.
“I am excited that we are back up and running,” said Murray. “We are building, and I am positive about how it’s going.”
Several new hires and promotions from part-time to full-time positions has put Quesnel in a strong position, again, but more aspiring and experienced paramedics are needed, hence the recruitment. Even Murray is part of that up-scaling. A blink ago she was “just a paramedic,” she said, and now she is the acting unit chief with official commanding paramedic Jason Jackson on indefinite leave, seconded to the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia-CUPE 873 as provincial vice-president, so he, too, is part of the moving pieces.
“It is absolutely a crisis. We are hiring people in a very flexible way to fill seats, and we are paying for some of their training,” said Murray about the provincial situation, and the innovations now involved.
An entry level candidate used to be required to have both a Class 4 driver’s license and the Emergency Medical Responder classification before they walked in the BCAS door, but now someone can be hired provisionally and attain those qualifications while on the job in more limited ways.
“Adaptability,” is the best part of the BCEHS approach to their employees, Murray explained, allowing for people to work when it fits their lifestyle, and the more part-time paramedics on the roster, the easier that becomes for everyone.
“And there are no demographic restrictions. Men, women, older, younger…,” she said. “You have to be 19 and they tend to max us out at 70, but if you can maintain a driver’s license and your skill-set, and they are training you, now, paying for that. And you can also work in private industry, and also work for us while you’re waiting for that full-time position for us, and lots of side-work.”
You can also do it anywhere, because the position is with a province-wide organization. The village of Wells, next door to Quesnel, for example, is in dire need of paramedics, so there is an opportunity to start with BCAS provisionally in a spot like Wells and work towards whatever your goals might be, Murray said, mutually helpful.
There are also many kinds of jobs within the profession, not just urgent responses in ambulances: dispatchers, administration, air ambulance, many options, and ways to blend it into other lifestyle choices or avenues of specialty. To learn more, call 250-992-3211 or knock on the door at 574 Carson Avenue.
“It allows for a very diverse lifestyle,” she said. “I love my job, and I want other people to love this job, too.”