Weekend ambulance returns

Coverage and night vision improve patient care

BCEHS air ambulance at night. Photo Summit Helicopters

Sun Peaks is receiving additional ambulance coverage from British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) during peak periods this winter season.

According to a written statement from Shannon Miller, communications officer for BCEHS, an ambulance out of Kamloops will be staged in Sun Peaks every Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The season’s coverage began on opening weekend and will extend until Apr. 13, 2020.
There will also be additional coverage during Christmas break, Air Nation, B.C. Family Day and Spring Break.

“Placing paramedic crews at Sun Peaks allows us to respond quicker to any potential medical emergencies on the mountain,” Miller wrote. “The extra staffing will not impact responses to medical emergencies in Kamloops.”

The ambulance responds to medical emergencies in the municipality, supported by Sun Peaks Fire Rescue’s first responders. It also responds to the Health Centre and Ski Patrol Clinic to meet resort guests and staff that require transport to hospital.

The nearest hospital to Sun Peaks is Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops which is 50 minutes away by road.

It’s the third year that additional ambulance coverage has been provided in Sun Peaks. It was originally established as a trial project during the 2017-18 winter season.

While BCEHS has not responded to SPIN’s request for comment on the results of this trial, the numbers appear to support its continuation.

“During the 2018-19 ski season, Sun Peaks Municipality had 172 medical emergency calls to BCEHS, between October 2018 and March 2019,” Miller wrote.

She added those figures were consistent with the 2017-18 season. This equates to an average of one person every day during winter operations requiring an ambulance.

The recent introduction of night vision technology to the Kamloops air ambulance also improves its coverage of the region, including Sun Peaks.

According to a media release by BCEHS, the technology was approved for use by the service on Dec. 11. Prior to then, BCEHS helicopters out of Kamloops were restricted by night visual flight rules during hours of darkness.

“The night vision technology, traditionally used in the military and for search and rescue missions, will benefit critically ill or injured patients who require care and transport in central B.C … essentially, the technology allows pilots and their paramedic crews to safely transport patients in low light,” read a release.

“This equipment is a big change in how paramedics can respond to patients in central B.C.,” said Tammy Schiere, BCEHS interim director of aviation. “We are excited about our ability to provide enhanced safety when responding to medical emergencies at night.”

If the number of people requiring an ambulance in Sun Peaks continues its trend, it could be another busy season for local emergency responders.

However, with the return of seasonal ambulance coverage for Sun Peaks and an increase in the operational hours of the regional air ambulance, the potential exists for reduced response and transport times to hospital for those who need it.