November 15, 2012 - 1:04 PM
Reduced ambulance service at Big White this winter will mean increased service to the Central Okanagan, according to the Superintendent for North Okanagan District of B.C. Ambulance Service.
Norm Matheson says the service in this area was inspected closely because of concerns raised elsewhere, like West Kelowna. They opted to yank a remote on-call service from Big White and bring the rig there into full service in the Central Okanagan.
It means instead of having an ambulance on 24-hour standby for the 10,000 to 16,000 at Big White, we have a 12-hour ambulance in the valley year-round. Matheson said ultimately the call volume at Big White didn't warrant its previous service level and beginning this year, Big White will be served like most other ski hills in the province.
For Big White, it means an ambulance is roughly an hour away instead of 10 to 15 minutes away. But Matheson says last year there were only 14 calls of any urgent nature and time wouldn't have been much of a factor anyway. Most of the cases on the hill can be handled by doctors and nurses at the infirmary on the hill.
"We took in the whole region and results showed the seasonal ambulance station (had a) low number of calls," he said. "We believe more patients will benefit from the service being redeployed down here."
Big White still has its infirmary and first responders and Matheson says air support from Kamloops can be on the hill in half an hour, if required. If Big White feels the necessity, Ambulance service could br provided for $160 per hour or roughly $700,000.
Michael Ballingall, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the resort, disagrees with the decision.
"This is a community that's pretty huge," he said. "My ski patrol can handle emergencies on the mountain, but if someone has a catastrophic event -- if someone chokes or has a heart attack or has a stroke -- we don't have the ability to deal with it."
"Unfortunately, the reality is that I don't think anybody will pay attention to this until something happens," he said.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012