Photo courtesy B.C. Emergency Health Services Commission                                The provincial ambulance service won’t be adding four-wheel drive vehicles to its northern and rural fleet.

Photo courtesy B.C. Emergency Health Services Commission The provincial ambulance service won’t be adding four-wheel drive vehicles to its northern and rural fleet.

Ferry, staffing, not lack of four-wheel drive ambulances, top concerns in Haida Gwaii

No four-wheel drive ambulances for the north

Four-wheel drive vehicles may be a staple for northern residents, especially in the winter, but that doesn’t extend to the B.C. Ambulance Service.

That news comes from the service in response to a District of Houston request that ambulances be either four-wheel or all-wheel drive.

“It is a major safety risk that our emergency services vehicles may be unequipped to reach patients or hospital destinations in other communities in adverse weather conditions,” the council stated in a briefing note prepared for health minister Adrian Dix.

For Houston, that’s critical because while it has a health centre, the nearest hospitals are either approximately one hour’s drive east to Burns Lake or one hour’s drive west to Smithers.

“Many elderly residents may be unable to regularly shovel snow from their driveways, meaning that ambulances may have restricted access to private residences,” the Houston council briefing note added.

And many residents live on rural, unpaved roads that may be steep or unmaintained, the note said.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii case sparks calls for better B.C. air ambulance service

While this may be of concern to areas in the north that receive higher amounts of snow, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), say the lack of four-wheel drive ambulances are not a concern for residents in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii where wet roads and ice are more common.

Last winter had an incident off of Highway 16 between Rupert and Terrace where an ambulance skid off the icy road and crashed. However, according to BCEHS four-wheel drive does not help in icy conditions.

“Our current rural ambulances are well-equipped to drive in winter and offer benefits and practical advantages of two-wheel drive. A 4×4 vehicle is not any further help to crews in icy conditions,” Shannon Miller Communications Officer, BCEHS.

Miller did add that the service’s ambulances are equipped with snowflake-rated tires and do carry chains.

“On Haida Gwaii, the main issue in regard to ambulances I’ve heard has been around staffing challenges as well as the challenge that the reduced Kwuna ferry service has caused with patient transport during the evenings,” she said.

The elimination of the second ferry shift has meant that the Canadian Coast Guard has had to step up and provide patient transport to and from Moresby and Graham islands during the evenings. The vessel is an open boat and not designed for transporting immobile people in often adverse weather conditions, Rice explained.

The restoration of the Kwuna ferry service, although delayed in implementation is expected to alleviate Haida Gwaii’s patient transport challenge during the evenings.

The ambulance service did experiment with four-wheel drive vehicles in rural and northern areas, and some are still in service, but overall found them unsuitable, Miller said.

“The primary reason the trial was not expanded is the 4×4 ambulances presented a safety risk for our paramedics,” she said.

“The nature of a 4×4 ambulance means an increased floor height, significantly increasing the risk of injury while loading and unloading the ambulance. Musculoskeletal injuries are by far the leading cause of injury for paramedics.”

Paramedics also found the 4×4 chassis to have a much stiffer and rougher riding suspension, affecting the comfort of patients being transported in the unit.

Specific to rural areas, the service has introduced ambulances with a longer wheelbase chassis which allows for a larger fuel tank to increase range and provide additional storage space for winter gear for the paramedics, she said.

“As we continue our regular replacement of vehicles, more of these ambulances will be in rural areas …,” Miller said.

And when ambulance crews do need assistance during winter weather conditions, such as dealing with snowed-in rural driveways, they’ll call on other first responder services.

BCEHS had nine four-wheel drive ambulances in their provincial fleet. One is used for training and learning and the others are in Burns Lake, Dease Lake, Seton Portage, Zeballos, Gold Bridge, Bella Coola, Lillooet and Pemberton.

READ MORE:B.C. communities call for changes to ambulance response priorities


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email


Haida Gwaii Observer
Newsroom 
Send email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Northern Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Most Read