Future of only ambulance station in Vancouver’s downtown core in jeopardy

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November 7, 2014 5:55 pm

The ambulance station servicing Vancouver’s downtown core might be eliminated next year.

British Columbia Ambulance Service Station 242 sits at 1317 Richards Street in Yaletown. The building had been owned by the provincial government – but they recently sold it as part of their ongoing divestment of assets to  balance the budget.

The lease on the property ends at the end of February 2015 and BC Emergency Health Services is considering not replacing the station, instead relying on St. Paul’s Hospital and stations in the Downtown Eastside and Kitsilano for all downtown calls.

“We are currently working on an alternative,” admits Linda Lupini, Executive Vice President of BC Emergency Health Services, who says nothing has been decided yet.

“We have a dynamic deployment model, allowing us to deploy from everywhere,” she said.

“For the most part, a lot of the crews clear at the hospital and are deployed again. The actual physical location of the station is not as critical in responding to a call as the public may think,” she added.

But James Towle, Regional Vice President for The Ambulance Paramedics of BC, says that closing the station would impact response times.

“It’s fundamental when you’re responding to ambulance calls to have ambulances in ambulance stations in the area,” he says. “That ambulance station, or one close by, has been there since the inception of the ambulance service in 1974.”

Towle says the Yaletown station is often used by ambulances being cleaned in between shifts, and that St. Paul’s may not be able to adequately handle a higher load of vehicles.

“We’d just like the service to come to the union, let us know what their plans are so we can work collaboratively.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, says that removing the station would mean ambulances having to drive over bridges or through Gastown to reach emergencies during peak traffic hours – and he can’t imagine the hassle that could cause.

“No ambulance station in downtown Vancouver? Does that make any sense? ” he asked.

“They’re potentially putting people’s health at risk. Seconds mean everything.”

– With files from John Daly