By Laura Keil

Valemount’s ambulance station is getting a huge boost this month, after the Province announced it will be one of three stations transitioning to a 24-7 Alpha model. 

The Alpha station means two paramedics will be on duty—either at the station or out on a call—24 hours a day, with an additional two paramedics (second car) on-call if needed.

To do that, Valemount’s station will permanently add at least five new people to its existing four-person team, for a total of at least nine paramedics: eight regular full-time and one irregular (floater) full-time position to backfill for holidays and scheduled leave. The two-day per week community paramedicine position will also continue.

Currently, Valemount has no full-time paramedics. 

“We will follow provisions in the collective agreement regarding adequate notice and recruitment, and we expect to transition to the full-time positions by late fall,” said a spokesperson from BCEHS.

At a recent Seniors Fair, Dr. Ray Markham, Chief of Staff at the Valemount Health Centre, said Valemount will be the smallest community to become an Alpha Call station, and residents should soon notice a significant improvement.

“So … when you call 911, you know that there’s an ambulance in town and they can get to you pretty quickly. I’m hoping to get to that place where it’s suddenly much better, because it has been a big problem, especially this past year.”

A local health care worker familiar with the change said it was thanks to advocacy by Dr. Markham, MLA Shirley Bond, Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson and others that Valemount received this designation.

The Alpha station schedule consists of four days on, four days off, typically two 12-hour day shifts followed by two 12-hour night shifts. 

BCEHS says Valemount will maintain a small pool of on-call casual paramedics to fill shifts in the Alpha car and to staff a second ambulance.

Under the former Scheduled On-Call (SOC) schedule, the station was staffed by paramedics working 3 days a week with 3 days off (the paramedics were at the station from 8am to 4pm and carried a pager outside those hours). 

If medical attention is required, paramedics will still have to transfer patients to McBride when the nurse and/or doctor on-call is stationed there. The Valemount Health Centre and McBride Hospital share on-call duties, Markham noted.

The spokesperson says BCEHS, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, added more than 500 new full-time and part-time permanent paramedic positions in rural and remote areas since 2021, at least 125 in urban areas, plus 42 new dispatch positions. 

“We rolled out a national marketing campaign in late 2021 to fill vacant positions and recruit new staff, and as a result we currently have more than 400 applicants that are being processed,” the spokesperson said. “These new positions mean there are even more choices for permanent paramedic positions in many beautiful communities throughout BC, we look forward to welcoming new recruits to BCEHS.”