Ambulance left on Gabriola at request of BCAS, not BC Ferries

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 26 2016

BC Ferries (BCF) is saying that it was at the request of the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) that room was not made on a recent sailing for an ambulance transporting a patient to Nanaimo.

The incident was brought to the Sounder’s attention by a member of the public who was on deck when the events took place.

BCF confirmed that the ambulance had shown up at the Descanso Bay terminal after vehicles had been loaded onto the Quinsam. Neither BCF nor BCAS stated whether there had been contact from the Gabriola crew to hold a space on the sailing.

Deck staff asked the Quinsam’s master if a vehicle should be backed off to make room.

The BC Ferries operations staff then contacted BC Ambulance staff according to Deborah Marshall, Executive Director of Public Affairs for BC Ferries.

“We asked if it was an urgent situation. The ambulance told us no, that it was not a ‘Code 3’ situation and that the ship could go.”

In 2014, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS, under whose umbrella BCAS falls) put a new process in place which required all communication from paramedics to the local ferry crews be routed through the BCAS dispatch centres, who then speak to the BC Ferries Operations, who then communicate information out to the ferry crews.

This process came into place shortly after a new rate structure was introduced by BC Ferries on July 1, 2014, charging BCAS (and other emergency providers) for after-hours and delayed sailings.

Preet Grewel, speaking on behalf of BCEHS said, “BCEHS finds the streamlined process whereby BCEHS Dispatch calls the BC Ferries Operations Centre to request a delayed or extra sailing to help transport a patient works well.

“Previously, paramedics would call various ferry personnel en route to the dock or request assistance once they arrived at the dock which was, at times, unreliable and potentially unsafe.

“The new process was introduced in October 2014. It allows BCEHS paramedics to focus on caring for the patient while Dispatch coordinates the logistics by reviewing all the methods of transport assistance available at that moment and organizing the most appropriate response. 

“Overall, this process has helped enhance the consistency of care throughout the coastal communities and improved both paramedic and patient safety.”