Health authorities seek private drivers
Published Sunday, August 31, 2008 8:10PM PDT
Health authorities across B.C. are looking for a private company to take over from ambulances the job of transporting patients without significant medical needs.
The move would save money and free up ambulances to take a growing number of emergency calls, said Gavin Wilson of Vancouver Coastal Health.
"The kind of service we're looking for is more than a taxi, but less than a paramedic," he said.
BC Ambulances handle more than 89,000 service calls a year.
Some 30 per cent of those are routine calls where the paramedics' skills aren't needed, he said, such as transporting a patient from one facility to another.
"This would be, for example, someone being taken from a care home to a hospital for tests," said Wilson.
Emergency calls sometimes divert ambulances from these routine calls, meaning that patients are sometimes left in the lurch.
But a spokesman for the union of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. says it's not as safe as the health authority makes it out to be.
"The risks are huge for patient safety," said B.J. Chute, adding that drivers wouldn't be prepared for any emergencies that did arise.
"I would not allow my family to go in an unmarked van that does not have any medical equipment or medical personnel on board," he said.
The idea isn't new -- just last week, B.C. Ambulances were only a small part of an operation that moved all of the patients at MSA Hospital to a new facility in a single day.
And the president of an Abbotsford company that already does the service in a small scale says that more transportation options would eliminate "bed-blocking," where patients who are waiting for transport can't free up a bed.
"It is not productive for a patient for whom you can do nothing to be sitting in a bed," he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward