Town opposes paramedic work download

“We deal with this with our own fire department, with medical aid assists. There is no way to recoup those costs."

Tim McGonigle

Lake Cowichan council is watching with interest a situation emerging in the Municipality of Delta in which Delta is training their own firefighters as emergency medical responders.

The Ambulance Paramedics of BC, CUPE Local 873, had written to the Town of Lake Cowichan and other municipalities expressing concern about a “download of the ambulance services in the making” as changes to provincial emergency regulations could see municipalities providing more emergency services from within the ranks of their fire departments.

The letter came to the Oct. 27 meeting of Lake Cowichan town council.

Coun. Tim McGonigle was the first to respond to the subject, climbing, as he said, onto his own soapbox, because it’s a subject he himself and other councillors have raised on several occasions.

“We deal with this with our own fire department, with medical aid assists. There is no way to recoup those costs,” he said.

The August report from the Lake Cowichan Fire Department showed that its members had been called out on “medical aid” (which usually means assisting paramedics) on five occasions.

Answering those calls meant the dispatch of from 11 to 17 volunteer firefighters and the cost of those call-outs ranged from $204.02 to $295.62.

McGonigle said he supported the decision of the Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department not to be counted as “first responders”, unlike some fire departments around the Cowichan Lake area.

“I give kudos to them for not doing that, so as to enhance the value of our ambulance service. Otherwise, I think we would have lost that long ago,” he said.

He said that, in his opinion, moves like this were similar to other downloading decisions that have been made by higher levels of government.

“This no different than municipalities taking on responsibilities [outside their usual mandate], because they embraced them, because they saw a need,” McGonigle said, adding he hoped the paramedics came to some reasonable agreement with Delta on the worrying problem.

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