file photo

Big White calls for full-time ambulance service

Currently the mountain has an ambulance stationed on weekends and holidays

The president of Big White Ski Resort is calling on BC Ambulance Emergency Services to provide full-time service to the mountain.

Currently, there is an ambulance only on weekends and holidays.

“We have been negotiating and talking and begging, I have been listening to BC Ambulance Service for years, and as we grow our ski business so do (the number of) accidents. We are a tremendous supplier of patients to Kelowna General Hospital and ambulances,” said Michael J. Ballingall.

On a busy night, there can be approximately 16,000 people sleeping on the mountain, not including day visitors. There can be up to 22,000 people on the mountain on a busy day, Ballingall said.

Those people all deserve proper service.

“When an ambulance is called it’s an emotional issue, it’s kids with their parents or it involves catastrophic pain, broken femurs and ribs. It’s trauma,” he said. “We are really not looking after the tourists, residents or the visiting residents.”

If there is an injury on the mountain the ski patrol manages the incident.

It is a 57-minute drive to get from Big White to Kelowna General Hospital and Big White Fire Rescue is looking to reduce that trip time by proposing a transport agreement to BC Ambulance Service. The agreement would allow firefighters to transport patients to a predetermined location before transferring them to an ambulance to get to the hospital.

“We have no interest to take over the ambulance service. Our only interest is to help patients in our care while they are waiting for ambulance,” said Big White chief fire officer, Jamie Svendsen.

Out of his 36 member crew, more than 16 have completed their Emergency Medical Responder training which Svendsen said allows them to treat several different kinds injuries including musculoskeletal injuries, head and spinal injuries, shock and pregnancy, labour and delivery.

READ ALSO: Big White looks to top 2018

Svendsen said the majority of calls they receive are medical calls and motor vehicle accidents. In 2018 they responded to 125 medical calls and 37 motor vehicle accidents.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge, they are doing what they can. But if call volumes up here don’t warrant a full-time ambulance, and that ambulance can be saving lives in another community instead of hanging around up here waiting for calls to come in, it’s a better use of resources,” said Svendsen.

“We are covering it and providing the service to our community, and we are more stressed but it’s part of our job… we just want to offer quality care for our guests and staff here at Big White.”

READ ALSO: Kelowna snowboarder being mourned at Big White

An ambulance is stationed at Big White Ski Resort Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., and on holidays as well as when the BC Emergency Health Services predicts there will be a particularly busy day on the mountain.

“It’s a dynamic system, they don’t sit in one place if its resources are needed near by in the Kelowna Kamloops area. If need be it will be diverted,” said communications officer at BCEHS, Fatima Siddiqui.

In the tail-end of the 2017 season, from January to April the ambulance responded to 157 calls, 101 of which required transportation.

During the beginning of the 2018 season from November to December, the ambulance responded to 60 calls, 22 of which required transportation.

Only two air evacs, an air ambulance service, were recorded from Big White in 2018.

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