By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor

The news that Valemount’s ambulance station will become a 24/7 alpha station is welcome news to say the least. It’s been too long that 911 callers have sometimes had to wait up to an hour for an ambulance. Recently, a baby in Barriere died while waiting for an ambulance to show up as it was busy covering calls in Kamloops. This is simply not acceptable in modern British Columbia.

But while one problem is solved, another still lingers: that of allowing the McBride hospital and Valemount Health Centre to alternate as the emergency locale for 911 calls in the valley. It’s a policy that changed several years ago where the on-call nurse and doctor are sometimes in Valemount and sometimes in McBride.

Frankly, I’m not sure how this has been allowed to occur. An hour drive to get assessed after phoning 911? We live on a major highway, not at the end of a gravel dirt road. This portion of emergency services prioritizes the convenience of medical staff over the health of patients. As staffing improves at both locations, this Northern Health policy should be turfed as soon as possible.

I once phoned 911 and was transported by ambulance to McBride to be assessed by the on-call nurse who then phoned the on-call doctor who was located in Valemount. Then I was released from the hospital but the ambulance had already left and I had no way to return home. I realize this probably isn’t usual policy, but it’s certainly a bizarre and circuitous way of doing things, and not patient centric at all. It also wastes valuable ambulance resources as they essentially serve as a taxi.

I hear promising news from local health officials about new doctors and nurses coming to the valley. I hope one of the Northern Health Board’s first priorities is to fix the emergency on-call situation to better serve patients.