January 06, 2016
Marine Medics of the Gulf Islands
The rational for the creation of the British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) was to end the patchwork and duplication of the many agencies that were providing some kind of ambulance service to the people of B.C. Prior to the creation of the BCAS numerous briefs and submissions were made to all levels of governments in an attempt to convince political leaders that a better system of emergency medical care to the ill and injured must be sought.
These attempts fell on deaf ears, and little was done to improve the situation. Some large municipalities had reasonably good and well-run services, and others could only provide a basic level of care. Most communities were served by volunteers with little access to financial resources, proper equipment and advanced training. In many remote or small towns no type of ambulance service was available.
It was not until 1972 when a new provincial government called the New Democratic Party (NDP) swept into power that the pleas by so many were finally heard, and acknowledged.
This was a government with a very ambitious agenda to dramatically overhaul the present social and health system operating in the province. The NDP was lead by a fiery and quick-witted Premier named David Barrett. Successive and different provincial governments have come and gone, but they have all endorsed, and supported the concept of an integrated ambulance system void of any jurisdictional restrictions, or parochial ideology.
The fist step to create this new provincial entity was to draft legislation that laid the cornerstone to build the system. The legislation that was introduced was Bill 93 The Emergency Health Services Act. The Bill became law on May 30, 1974. Under this act independent governance board was created called the Emergency Health Services Commission. This was, and still is, the guiding authority for the BCAS. The name changed in 2013 to the British Columbia Emergency Health Service or BCEHS. The B.C. Ambulance Service began operating on July1, 1974. Over the years major advances in the system have been made. The BCAS is constantly upgrading and improving the system. More improvements are planned in the area of technology and patient treatments over the next few years. As of April 1, 2011 the BCEHS became an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). This organization is focused on the advancement of many aspects of high quality healthcare for British Columbians, and under this authority BCAS will continue to develop and improve. The BCAS move patients by land air and water and is the only public ambulance provider in the province. The service works closely with their colleagues of other emergency services such police and fire departments.
The challenges are many in operating Canada largest EMS system. B.C. is a province that has a very diverse type of topography, with vast distances to travel, and a relatively small demographic. However, the value of this no-boundary system has been demonstrated time and time again. When only one coordinated delivery model is put to the test of responding to a major incident the amount of resources that can be assembled with all in the same uniform, all with the same colour units, and with the same medical focus is brought to bear, the patient becomes the benefactor. All this is in keeping with the official motto of the BCAS.