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Update: Should B.C. pay when municipal fire departments respond to medical calls?

Prince George city council is calling for the provincial government to pay when municipal firefighters respond to medical calls.
Prince George Fire Rescue 1
More than 60 per cent of the calls the Prince George Fire Rescue Service responded to in 2022 were medical calls in support of BCEHS.

With municipal fire departments responding to an increasing number of emergency medical calls in support of paramedics, it's time for the province to help cover the rising costs facing local governments, a draft resolution approved by Prince George city council on Monday says.

The city’s Standing Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs prepared a draft resolution to bring to the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ 2023 convention calling for the provincial government to “develop a funding model to compensate local governments who provide emergency medical services through their fire and rescue services fulfilling the responsibility of the provincial government…”

“It’s important we recognize the City of Prince George can supplement the services the province is required to provide, but we need to be compensated to do so,” Coun. Kyle Sampson said. “We can’t be stuck with the bill for providing support for their work.”

The fire department’s cost for medical supplies has grown from $28,000 in 2015 to $69,000 in 2022.

Under the B.C Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) Clinical Response Model, fire department first responders are dispatched to 911 medical emergency calls that are classified as immediately life-threatening, time critical or urgent/potentially serious calls (colour coded purple, red and orange) to provide basic life-saving interventions until paramedics can arrive.

In 2022, the Prince George Fire Rescue Service responded to 5,949 medical calls, more than 60 per cent of the record 9,880 calls the department responded to that year. Between Jan. 1 and May 31 this year, the fire department responded to 2,831 medical calls, a nearly 23 per cent increase over the same period in 2022.

During the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, the department responded to an average 6,200 calls of all types per year, ranging from 6,881 in 2017 to 5,888 in 2015, according to reports presented to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors.

“If all our firehalls are tied up on medical calls and there is a fire in our city, they can not leave the scene until the B.C. Ambulance Service arrives. This puts our city at significant risk,” Coun. Cori Ramsay said.