Ambulance and fire services will soon be housed under the same roof, thanks to Sidney’s impressive new Community Safety Building (CSB).
The building opened on June 22 in a formal ceremony that saw a number of local dignitaries and stakeholders attend. BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) were welcomed to their part of the building but they are not fully moved in yet.
The CSB is the first custom-built facility on Vancouver Island for emergency health services use and the 6,000 square-foot space includes space for crew quarters, extensive operational facilities and six ambulances.
“In the spirit of cooperation and certainly with the great relationship we have with the Sidney Fire Department, it wouldn’t be uncommon for paramedics to go out to the fire hall side and hang out when they are in the station as well,” says Stephenson, adding that getting to know colleagues in the fire department also builds trust when both services are called into action.
BCEHS has signed a long-term lease for 20 years, with renewal options that could double it to 40 years. Paramedics and their support staff are based in their own separate part of the building, but are free to socialize with the firefighters and make use of their facilities as time allows.
However, with 235 medical emergencies and 90 patient transfers a month, it is unlikely staff get much time to relax. Stephenson says that total numbers are even higher, with ambulance crews answering 2,820 calls in the Sidney area per year, and make around 5,000 stops, helping out other districts by taking calls on the way back to their Sidney station.
“We like to describe our deployment and cross-coverage system like a bowl of water. Every time an ambulance goes on a call it’s like taking a scoop of water out of the bowl. The volume goes down, so your overall resources goes down, but there’s still, for the most part, as equal coverage as we can provide throughout the Peninsula,” says Stephenson.
Paramedics provide a professional service in often difficult circumstances and the station is seen by brass as providing a healthy place for staff to recompose themselves between calls. Management say they recognize crews spend a lot of their life at work, so they have provided training facilities, computer rooms and relaxation areas for personnel to feel valued and “at home.”
The Sidney station paramedics primarily respond to calls in the Town of Sidney, but also medical emergencies in North Saanich, and as far away as Saturna Island. They have a contract with a local boat service to zip over to the Gulf Islands if patients need urgent main-Island care. In extremis, they also have the ability to send helicopters or call in the Coast Guard.
Four full-time paramedics will work out of the station and 22 part-time. At present, personnel have not fully moved in and a date for when they will is expected to be announced in the future. For more information on BC Emergency Health Services, visit bcehs.ca.