The Keremeos B.C. Ambulance station celebrated 40 years in the community with an open house on Saturday, August 30.
Present day unit leader Tim Roberts said approximately 50 people dropped in to the station on Saturday, including former unit leaders Walter Despot and Jo Ann Eton. The three had their photo taken, representing all 40 years of leadership at the station.
B.C. Ambulance began its service in Keremeos as part of the firehall. Thirteen years ago, the present station was constructed, and today is home and work for up to 16 staff and two ambulances. The station is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s a rural station, so no one is full time,” explained Roberts, who said staff work shifts both in house and on call, at pay rates of $2 per hour for on call and mimimum wage while in station. A call out during shift results in a three hour mimimum paid.
The station presently answers an average of 120 -130 calls per month.
“Ten years ago, we averaged 600 calls a year,” Roberts said, “we’re closing in on 1,500 calls on average this year.”
Roberts is upbeat about B.C.’s provincial ambulance program.
“There are interesting things happening, I’m looking forward to the future,” he said. Roberts pointed to the recent multiple victim bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway last week that resulted in ambulance services throughout much of B.C. stepping in to provide extra vehicles or coverage for a neighbouring jurisdiction.
“That incident required additional resources from nearby stations. As they provided needed support at the crash site, stations like Keremeos moved to fill in the voids created.”
Many ambulance employees live at the Keremeos station during their shift. The unit has a small two bedroom, two bathroom, kitchen and living area attached where personnel spend their day between callouts.
The Keremeos hall is considered a starting facility for new emergency personnel, so staff rotate through the village on a fairly constant basis.
“It’s a great place to get started in the ambulance service,” Roberts said, “there’s a good mix of experience to be had here, from highway incidents to medical emergencies and other accidents. It’a a great community – we have good relationships with other emergency personnel, the public and the medical staff at the Similkameen Health Centre. New recruits really get a chance to learn how to interact.
“Things are changing in emergency services these days,” Roberts said, “I believe in B.C.’s approach to the ambulance service.
“We have more tools to work with, and new people coming on board who are eager and keen. It’s an exciting job.”