British Columbia Ambulance Service

The British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) is an ambulance service that provides emergency medical response for the province of British Columbia, Canada. BCAS is one of the largest provider of emergency medical services in North America. The fleet consists of more than 500 ground ambulances operating from 183 stations across the province along with 80 support vehicles. BCAS provides inter-facility patient transfer services in circumstances where a patient needs to be moved between health care facilities for treatment. BCAS also operates a medical evacuation program that utilizes both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.

British Columbia Ambulance Service
British Columbia Ambulance Service (emblem).jpg
BC Ambulance at RCH.jpg
Provincial agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1974
JurisdictionBritish Columbia
HeadquartersVictoria, British Columbia
Employees4750 (January 2018)
Annual budget$502,410 (2020)
Minister responsible
Provincial agency executive
  • Darlene MacKinnon, Chief Operating Officer
Parent departmentProvincial Health Services Authority


BCEHS critical care team on the helicopter pad on the top of Vancouver General Hospital following the offloading of a patient.

Prior to 1974, ambulance services in British Columbia was provided by a mixture of volunteer ambulance brigades, fire departments, funeral homes, and private operators. As a result of recommendations made by the Foulkes Commission's report on health care, titled "Health Security for British Columbians" released in 1973, the Government of British Columbia created the Emergency Health Services Commission (EHSC), which in turn created the BC Ambulance Service on July 4, 1974.[1]


BCAS is managed by British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), which under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA).[2]

There are 183 ambulance stations in British Columbia, including the transfer fleet.[3][4] As of 2018, the BCAS employs 4,750 part-time and full-time paramedics and dispatchers. This includes management and administrative employees in the BCAS.[3] Dispatch centres are located in Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria.[5]

The Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board is an independent regulatory body responsible for licensing paramedics.[6]

Air ambulance fleetEdit

BCEHS helicopters based in Vancouver

BCEHS's air ambulance program consists of a fleet of ten fixed-wing aircraft with three each in Vancouver and Kelowna, two in Prince George, and one each in Nanaimo and Fort St. John. Additional aircraft are chartered on an as-needed basis. In addition to its planes, BCEHS operates six dedicated air ambulance helicopters, two based in Vancouver, one in Nanaimo, one in Kamloops, one in Prince George, and one in Prince Rupert. BCEHS also utilizes approximately 35 pre-qualified charter carriers throughout British Columbia.[7]

Licensing and qualificationsEdit

Paramedics qualified in British Columbia are broadly grouped as emergency medical assistants (EMAs) and are licensed by the Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board (EMALB), an independent government regulatory agency, under one of five categories:[8]

Paramedics from other provinces and countries who request to be licensed in British Columbia will need to apply to the EMALB for equivalency.[9]

Clinical practiceEdit

Paramedics in BC do not work under the license of a physician as they do in other provinces/jurisdictions. They hold their own licenses under the authority of the EMALB. Paramedic practitioners practising in BC do not use protocols, instead, they utilize BCEHS Treatment Guidelines (TGs). TGs are the medical resource documents that guide paramedic practice in the province of BC. TGs are a combination of best practice and evidence-based medicine designed to better equip paramedics to make informed decisions in the field. They provide valuable information regarding what you should do for your patients under certain circumstances but the decision of when, and if, that care is appropriate is dependent on your ability to decide the best course of action for the patient.[10]

Many paramedics seek additional training to achieve licence endorsements, which authorize them to perform medical interventions/treatments outside of their normal scope of practice. The two most common licence endorsements are for EMRs to utilize narcotic antagonists (otherwise known as Narcan or Naloxone) and a licence level referred to as PCP-IV, which authorizes Primary Care Paramedics to initiate and maintain an IV as well as administer certain medications and crystalloid fluids through an IV line.[11]

Selected PCPs and ACPs are able to administer NA-1 (if endorsed and authorized) after consultation with a transport advisor as part of the FRONTIER stroke trial. If successful, this trial will change stroke management and highlight the essential role of prehospital care in stroke management.[12][13]

Selected ACPs are able to administer TNKase (if endorsed and authorized) after consultation with a transport advisor as part of the Collaborative Heart Attack Management Program (CHAMP) Protocol for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction Pre-hospital Reperfusion. If this trial is successful, it can be extended to other areas of the province. [14]

Paramedics have the ability to initiate critical patient bypasses to specialized centres with certain patient presentations and initiate alternate transport destinations to alleviate pressures and patient transport to emergency departments. Some of these include:

  • Stroke bypass
  • STEMI bypass
  • Palliative care (ASTAR Clinical Pathway)
  • Influenza like illness (ILI Clinical Pathway)
  • Major trauma bypass
  • Pediatric and obstetrics bypass
  • Sobering centres/detox

First responderEdit

First responders are licensed emergency medical assistants in British Columbia, however, they are not employed by BCAS. Most first responders work as event medics for festivals or sporting events. EMA FR courses take 5 days to complete, and students are trained in scene assessment, basic patient assessments, basic wound & traumatic injury care, fracture management, basic airway management, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. First responders can receive licence endorsements for oral airways, ventilation, suction, and BVM, spinal immobilization, oral glucose treatment, emergency childbirth, and AED.[11]

Emergency medical responderEdit

Emergency medical responders are licensed to administer basic life-saving emergency medical care. EMR is the lowest level of care employed by BCAS and most EMRs work at rural ambulance stations on part-time shifts. EMR courses take 2-3 weeks to complete and students will receive a course certificate upon completion. EMRs are licensed to provide spinal immobilization, patient handling, packaging, and transporting, blood pressure measurements, glucometer usage, emergency fracture immobilization, soft tissue injury treatment, administration of automatic or semi-automatic external defibrillator, and airway management, as well as all skills and services under the first responder licence and its endorsements. EMR endorsements include IV maintenance, pulse oximetry, medication administration of Narcan, nitroglycerin, analgesics, and aspirin, chest auscultation, insertion and maintenance of nasal airway, and the use and interpretation of a glucometer.[11]

Primary care paramedicEdit

Primary care paramedics are licensed to administer more advanced care. PCP is the most common level of care in BCAS. Primary care paramedic programs take between 9 weeks and 8 months to complete and issue program certificates. Unlike EMA FR or EMR education, PCP programs consist of multiple courses in each program and most programs are offered full time or at night. In addition to all services provided by EMRs, PCPs are licensed to administer extraglottic airway devices, medication administration through IV, oral (PO), subcutaneous, sublingual, intramuscular, inhalation, and nebulization routes. PCPs can receive endorsements for IV initiation, administration of IV crystalloids, endotracheal tube intubation, ECG acquisition, administration of non-invasive positive airway pressure ventilation devices, and administration of anti-emetics, anti-nauseants, and vitamins through IV, oral, SL, SC, inhalation, or nebulization routes.[11]

Community paramedicEdit

Community paramedics provide non-emergency and scheduled care to patients, often referred to colloquially as "clients," (although CP services are covered by provincial health insurance and come at little to no cost), as part of an integrated healthcare team, usually coordinated with a regional health authority or hospital.[15] Unlike previously mentioned levels of care, community paramedics is neither a licence nor a certification received from an external educational institution. Rather, community paramedics are certified internally, and the services they provide are consistent with their pre-existing licence level. Community paramedics are trained in community outreach and awareness, prevention care services for elderly patients, fall prevention assessments, scheduled and unscheduled home visits, and community public health promotion and education.[11]

Infant Transport TeamEdit

The Infant Transport Team (ITT) are now specialized critical care paramedics who are specifically trained for care of perinatal, neonatal and pediatric patients. Formerly, they were primary care paramedics (with many ACP Schedule 2 endorsements) with advanced training and provide emergency medical care to pediatric, neo-natal and high-risk obstetric patients. ITT paramedics work in close collaboration with practitioners at BC Children's & Women's Hospital in Vancouver. The team functions as an extension of the neonatal/paediatric intensive care units as well as the high risk labour and delivery areas of the hospital. Tertiary level critical care is delivered by the team to the bedside at any location in the province.

They respond as an equally qualified team of two and sometimes take a physician with them for critically ill patients. When dispatched on street calls these are targeted response ambulances that often assist or intervene when necessary, but can hand a more stable patient off to a layered or co-responding PCP ambulance. The team currently consists of only 25 specially trained paramedics for the entire province.[16]

Advanced care paramedicEdit

Advanced care paramedics are trained to handle more complex cases, including serious trauma and cardiac resuscitation.[15]

Critical care paramedicEdit

Critical care paramedics (CCPs) provide the most sophisticated care, including transporting patients by air and ground. CCPs specialize in the transport of complex critically injured or ill patients to specialized centres.[15]

Paramedic specialistEdit

Paramedic specialists are licensed advanced care and critical care paramedics who are trained to handle disasters and mass casualty events.[15]

BC Ambulance has clinical consultation available for paramedics where paramedic specialists are enabled and empowered by the organization and by the medical directors to provide clinical, safety, and operational advice to paramedics. The pre-hospital environment poses many clinical challenges to practising paramedics. When faced with these challenges it may be appropriate to seek clarity with an appropriate senior clinician. Paramedics at all license levels can call CliniCall to speak with a paramedic specialist who will be either an ACP or a CCP. [17]

Wages and benefitsEdit

Wages are paid according to license qualification, years of service and supervisory status.

Paramedic wage scale[18] January 2018
Base $24.08 $25.64 $26.41 $34.84 $40.81 $40.81
1 year $25.91 $27.49 $28.26 $36.74 $42.72 $42.72
2 years $27.76 $29.34 $30.11 $38.41 $44.39 $44.39
3 years $29.85 $31.39 $32.16 $38.94 $44.92 $44.92
10 years $30.16 $31.70 $32.47 $39.25 $45.23 $45.23
15 years $30.47 $32.01 $32.78 $39.56 $45.54 $45.54
20 years $30.77 $32.31 $33.08 $39.86 $45.84 $45.84
25 years $31.11 $32.65 $33.42 $40.20 $46.18 $46.18

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "BCAS History". BCAS. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  2. ^ "BC Ambulance Service". Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  3. ^ a b "BCEHS factsheet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-20.
  4. ^ Shew, Frances (January 2014). "Map BCAS Stations Districts.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Branch".
  7. ^ "Fact Sheet Air Ambulance Fleet" (PDF). BCAS. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  8. ^ Health, Ministry of. "Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board - Province of British Columbia". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  9. ^ "Out-of-Province Applicants".
  10. ^ "Medical Oversight & Clinical Consultation".
  11. ^ a b c d e "First Responder and Paramedic Credentials in BC" (PDF). BCAS. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  12. ^ "The Frontier Trial – Field Randomization of NA-1 Treatment In Early Responders".
  13. ^ "BC paramedics aim to improve stroke care with new drug trial".
  14. ^ "Pilot project allows Kamloops paramedics to administer life-saving heart attack drug".
  15. ^ a b c d
  16. ^ "Annual Report 2019/20". Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board.
  17. ^ "Medical Oversight & Clinical Consultation".
  18. ^[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit