The costs of BC Ambulance taking patients on BC Ferries

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 26 2016

Since April 1, 2015, the Gabriola ambulance, operated by BC Ambulance Service, has transported 292 patients to Nanaimo on BC Ferries.

Fifty-six of those trips have been since April 1, 2016.

When the Quinsam is not sailing, the Nanaimo Port Authority Harbour Patrol (NPA) boat responds to the Descanso Bay Emergency Dock for patient transportation, having done so 34 times in 2015 and 16 times in 2016 to date, according to NPA spokesperson David Mailloux.

The information was released by BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and the NPA at the request of the Sounder after BC Ferries put out a press release regarding the company’s role in emergency response in coastal communities.

BCAS is operated as a part of the larger BCEHS.

According to BCEHS staff, BC EHS is charged on a cost-recovery basis and between July 2015 - June 2016 was charged approximately $10,000 (an average of about $47 per trip) for the ambulance taking a regularly scheduled sailing between Gabriola and Nanaimo.

In the release, BCF stated its fleet and staff had responded to 143 requests for assistance from BC Ambulance Services (BCAS) in fiscal 2016 (April 1, 2015 - March 31, 2016). Those 143 requests for assistance do not include any time an ambulance showed up on time for a sailing without requiring that a sailing be delayed or other assistance be initiated.

Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries’ Executive Director of Public Affairs, said, “If an ambulance travels with us on a regularly scheduled sailing and does not cause a delay we do not record it; if BCAS asks us to delay a sailing to wait for an ambulance and the delay is 10 minutes or greater, than we record it.”

According to BCEHS staff in January 2015, when the Quinsam is delayed more than 10 minutes by a request from BCAS, BC Ferries charges BCEHS $1,755.

Marshall said that since January 2016, there have been six occasions where the Quinsam has been delayed 10 minutes or longer due to an ambulance call.

On average, the cost of transporting with the Nanaimo Port Authority is between $734 and $784 per trip.

In the press release, Corrine Storey, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Customer Services, said, “Safety is paramount at BC Ferries and we are dedicated to ensuring the well-being of our passengers and employees.

“I am very proud of our trained staff members and crew who assist passengers in medical distress or respond to the call to assemble a crew for an extra unscheduled sailing. While these incidents can sometimes cause delays, we are happy to provide a safe environment as well as transportation for critical patients from the smaller coastal communities we serve.”

Jodi Jensen, Chief Operating Officer for BCEHS, said, “Our working relationship with BC Ferries is an important part of our provincial health care delivery system.

“With the help of BC Ferries, our paramedics are able reach our patients in coastal and remote communities and provide them with the emergency medical care that they need.”

BCEHS staff have said in the past that whatever method is used to transport patients off of Gabriola (BC Ferries, Harbour Patrol or Air Ambulance) the cost of transportation to British Columbians with a Medical Services Plan (MSP) who require ambulance transport via ground or air, with or without the assistance of an additional or delayed BC Ferries sailing, is $80.

For Gabriolans who are members of the Gabriola Ambulance Society, if transport by ambulance on Gabriola is required, the cost of the ambulance ride is covered by the Society. Membership costs $35 for up to five resident family members ($5 for each beyond five). 

More membership information available at

The Gabriola Ambulance Society does not operate ambulances on Gabriola and is not affiliated with the BC Ambulance Service. If an ambulance is required, call 911.