The head of B.C.'s paramedics union says he's glad pandemic increases in ambulance service that expired this fall have now been restored.
The number of ambulances in Kelowna was cut from 10 to 7 as of Nov. 1, along with reductions in Kamloops, Vernon and other communities across B.C.
The positions were created at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase support in smaller centres and reduce movement of patients.
Union president Troy Clifford says all 27 units were recently restored after he took his concerns to the Ministry of Health.
Those ambulance units included the three cut in Kelowna, another three in Kamloops, one in Vernon – and the addition of a new unit in Penticton.
"BC Emergency Health Services reinstated all 27 and added 10 more," says Clifford.
The 24-month temporary allocation had expired in April, and the union had campaigned to have the service improvements continue.
"We reached out to government, the Ministry of Health and BCEHS ... the consensus was we needed to do something," says Clifford.
"With support from the ministry, it was decided we need to make them permanent."
BCEHS says 254 new positions were recently added as part of converting temporary positions to permanent ones as part of the "sustainment phase" of the Rural, Remote, First Nations and Indigenous COVID-19 Response Framework.
"BCEHS has also seen the addition of 42 new dispatch positions to increase our capacity in dispatch," a spokesperson said in an email.
"We rolled out a national marketing campaign in late 2021 to fill vacant positions and recruit new staff, and as a result hundreds of new recruits are being hired and trained."
A recent hiring fair was held in Vernon, and BCEHS notes more than 750 new full-time and part-time permanent paramedic positions have been added in rural and remote areas across the province since 2021, along with 125 in urban areas.
"We encourage anyone interested in joining BCEHS to learn more at https://joinus.bcehs.ca/," the spokesperson wrote.