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B.C. trains more paramedics for emergency health care

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 12:32 PST, Fri February 3, 2023

British Columbians will have improved access to emergency health services as the province invests about $2 million into expanding paramedic training programs in communities around the province.

“Paramedics are the backbone of our emergency health services and our government is acting to strengthen our health system,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “Our government’s investment will create opportunities for people to begin careers in emergency health care, leading to faster response times for British Columbians when they need it.”

Government is providing about $2 million in funding to the Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) to expand its paramedic programming. The funding will help the primary care paramedic certificate program to be delivered to more than 100 students in Chilliwack, Kelowna, New Westminster, Trail, and Victoria. It will also help deliver emergency medical responder training to about 30 participants in Cranbrook, Port Alberni, and Prince George. The emergency medical responder training is a prerequisite for the primary care paramedic certificate program.

“When people need emergency care, paramedics are often the first on scene, providing quality care and support for people and their families,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “That’s why our government is continuing to invest in training opportunities for paramedics, alongside other in-demand careers in health care, so that people have timely access to the care they need, when they need it. This is another action we are taking as part of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy to build a better health-care system for B.C. for generations to come.”

The funding comes from the Community Workforce Response Grant, which provides funding for communities and sectors to support in-demand skills training leading to secure and sustainable employment for British Columbians.

The expanded paramedic training locations are where JIBC offers training. The funding may be used to pay for transportation and housing for participants travelling from outside of those communities.

“This funding has created a significant opportunity for students to answer the call to pursue a career in paramedicine at a critical time for the profession here in B.C.,” said Kathy Harms, director of health sciences division at JIBC. “Paramedic students often indicate a high degree of financial need, and the program itself is very intense, making the balance of work and school difficult to manage. This funding, which will cover all the students’ education expenses, will help alleviate the financial need, and allow students to focus more completely on their studies and success in the program.”

Leanne Heppell, executive vice president and chief ambulance officer of BC Emergency Health Services, said: “As BC Emergency Health Services continues to seek innovative ways to recruit staff throughout British Columbia, this funding will help increase access to paramedic training to help ensure we have a foundation of trained paramedics to serve communities in our province. With $2 million in funding at JIBC in both urban and rural communities, we can continue to fill existing vacancies, bolstering the pre-hospital emergency service delivery we provide to British Columbians.”

Since April 2021, the Community Workforce Response Grant has provided more than $20 million in funding to communities and service providers to train more than 1,665 people in health care-related positions. Examples include training to become primary-care paramedics, medical-laboratory assistants, health-care assistants, personal-support workers, medical-unit clerks, and mental-health workers.

“If we have this much of an impact as first-aid medics, how much could a paramedic team do? Thanks to the funding, I don’t have to work a second job. You’re investing in us, you believe in us. It’s huge,” said Kate Peer, a harm-reduction volunteer and primary-care paramedic student. 

The Community Workforce Response Grant provides funding for communities and sectors to support in-demand skills training leading to secure and sustainable employment. Funding amounts fluctuate based on student enrolment.

Community Workforce Response Grant funding can be used to pay for:
• Skills training, including apprenticeship foundations, short-term, occupational, and essential skills training

• Employment-assistance services, such as resume writing, interview skills, pre-employment counselling and/or coaching, and Indigenous cultural components

• Participant financial supports, such as child care, transportation, disability supports, and personal protective equipment

Creating opportunities for people to join the health-care workforce in B.C. is part of government’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which was announced on Sept. 29, 2022. The strategy supports patients by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. It focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train, and retain health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

Investing in training for emergency health-care workers is part of StrongerBC’s Future Ready plan to make education and training more accessible, affordable, and relevant to help businesses grow and prepare British Columbians for the jobs of tomorrow.

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