Numbers compiled by Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal show that firefighters in the City have seen a 2,000 per cent increase in medical calls in the last 18 years.
In a community that has only grown by nine per cent, that’s a staggering number.
It shows the extent to which, in many communities across British Columbia, local firefighters are bearing the brunt of a lack of BC Ambulance paramedics.
The ambulance services in this province have seen some high profile clashes with government. A 2010 dispute over a contract dragged out for months while paramedics kept working as an essential service.
More recently, there simply hasn’t been a big increase in the number of paramedics. In the Lower Mainland in 2016, there were 10 new ambulances added, six more in 2017.
But that came in the midst of a huge increase in overdoses due to the fentanyl crisis, along with a big increase in population.
Rather than leave people in medical distress, fire departments have often stepped in as the first responder. Firefighters routinely go to medical calls, from overdoses to falls to industrial accidents, even to aid people in seniors homes.
Firefighters are highly trained and adept, but handling traumatic injuries and medical emergencies is not meant to be their primary job.
The lack of ambulance services – a health issue – is a way the provincial government has downloaded costs to the municipalities of B.C. It may mean lower provincial taxes, but higher property taxes.
Someone has to pick up the bill for emergency medical care.