Kamloops councillors have proposed tracking the costs incurred by the municipality due to "provincial downloading" after hearing city firefighters are attending a steadily increasing number of medical calls.
The idea was floated by Coun. Katie Neustaeter after the city’s fire chief presented quarterly statistics during a safety and security select committee meeting Thursday.
Neustaeter noted Kamloops Fire Rescue statistics showed 67 per cent of calls between July and September were for medical reasons, and much of the time, firefighters were arriving on scene before ambulances.
“That’s a prime example of provincial downloading, where our fire crews are managing health concerns and arriving and attending 75 per cent of the time before the things that are under provincial authority are being able to be actioned. I don't understand why the province isn't moving on this,” Neustaeter said.
During Thursday’s meeting, Ken Uzeloc, chief of Kamloops Fire Rescue, said medical calls during the third quarter of 2023 increased 15 per cent when compared to the same time frame last year.
“These represent the critical life-threatening interventions where we are called either in place of a delayed B.C. Emergency Health Services unit, or to provide on-scene support to B.C. Emergency Health Services,” Uzeloc said.
Uzeloc noted there has been a 358 per cent increase in the number of stroke-related calls when compared to 2022. He believes this is due to a change BC EHS made to its triaging system, with a higher priority call type resulting in KFR being dispatched as well as paramedics.
KFR's third quarter statistics showed there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of calls during which firefighters administered Naloxone when compared to the same time period in 2022.
Neustaeter wondered why a team from Interior Health wasn’t responding to overdose calls, noting it's a health-related issue, and not the responsibility of police or firefighters.
“This is such an inappropriate use of fire resources, of vehicles that aren’t built for this, for people who did not train for this,” she said.
She suggested tracking the costs accumulated by the municipality due to “downloading” from the provincial government.
“I think it's time to stop talking about it, and that we start actually getting it down in dollars and cents and regularly submitting to the province as we see its continual impacts,” Neustaeter said.
Coun. Kelly Hall agreed.
“I would be very supportive of a resolution that is brought forward to council to quantify exactly how much money is being downloaded by the provincial government onto municipalities,” Hall said.
CAO David Trawin said he believes staff could obtain high level costs for council “fairly easily,” but added he didn’t know if the issue was to do with provincial downloading as much as it was a lack of providing services.
“Whether [it] be housing, whether it be mental health services, whether it be detox services, which are the realm of that, we are having to deal with the — as you’re hearing today — with the outfall of that,” Trawin said.
“Council could do nothing, but ultimately, the public is saying, ‘That is a huge issue, you need to do something on that,’ that's in the council strategic plan. …A lot of things in the budget, which you saw, are related to the things which now we have to follow up on because of lack of services from the province, in my opinion.”