The reduction in ambulance services in Kelowna has already begun to impact the community.
The Vineyards Residence assisted living home made a 911 call last week, but after being placed on hold for an unusually long time, a family member chose to drive their loved one to the hospital rather than waiting for an ambulance, said Janelle Hynes, the facility’s community relations and marketing manager.
After failing to renew the contract that was implemented in 2020, the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) announced that they will be reducing the number of ambulances in Kelowna by 30 per-cent, bringing the number of available vehicles down to seven.
“Kelowna residents could soon be seeing longer response times for emergency health services,” said the Union of Ambulance Paramedics in B.C.
The Kelowna fire department’s Deputy Chief of Operations, Dwight Seymour, told Capital News that Kelowna has not yet seen delays in ambulance services as severe as in other parts of the province. He explained that there may come a time when fire crews have to perform first aid and wait at a scene for paramedics to arrive, but it has not happened yet.
MLA for Kelowna-Mission Renee Merrifield said that she is is “disappointed” in the province’s decision to reduce ambulance services.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” said Merrifield.
She said that herself and the other Okanagan MLAs are writing letters to the health minister, urging him to implement permanent solutions for the province.
“People’s lives are at stake,” said Merrifield. “When people call 911, they expect help.”