August 11, 2014
VICTORIA— The B.C. Liberal government’s failure to improve ambulance service in rural and remote communities is putting lives at risk, say New Democrats.
“The untimely death of Skidegate band councillor Godfrey Williams is tragic, and the sad reality is it could have been prevented,” said New Democrat Northern health spokespersonJennifer Rice.
“The nearest ambulance station to Mr. Williams was only ten minutes away, but there was no one there to staff it, leaving him to wait for up to an hour for help. That’s unacceptable. The health minister must sit down with local government leaders in rural communities to find a solution to the paramedic shortage immediately, before more lives are lost,” said Rice.
“People on Haida Gwaii and around the province have warned for years that if action wasn’t taken someone would pay the ultimate price for B.C. Liberal neglect,” said New Democrat heath spokesperson Judy Darcy. ” The B.C. ambulance service is a provincial responsibility. No community should be without life-saving paramedic service.”
Darcy noted that people can’t afford to be full-time paramedics because the pay is low and inconsistent, meaning they take day jobs, leaving most of the islands without ambulance service during daytime hours.
Rice added that Haida Gwaii wasn’t alone in its concerns about ambulance service, noting the mayor of Fort Nelson wrote to Premier Clark in March saying ambulance service in his community “has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.”
“I’ve written to the health minister to demand immediate action to improve ambulance service in rural and northern communities before someone else’s life is shortened by B.C. Liberal neglect,” said Rice. “The B.C. Liberals talk big about how rural British Columbia pays the bills, but when it comes to investing in services for these communities, the cupboard is bare.
“One life lost is too many. Northern and rural communities deserve better,” said Darcy. “Action is needed now, not one or two years from now.”