BC Ferries helped respond to nearly 340 medical emergencies last year

Crews trained in first aid, unscheduled runs or altered timetables help health care system response throughout B.C. coast

Emergencies don’t follow ferry schedules and they don’t wait until a ship is safely docked.

And that is why BC Ferries is prepared to turn into an emergency response team whenever the need arises.

Crew members handled 196 medical emergencies on board ships, or in terminals during the 2015/16 fiscal year and supported B.C. Ambulance paramedics with another 143 requests for assistance, the ferry corporation announced Wednesday.

“I am very proud of our trained staff members and crew who assist passengers in medical distress or respond to the call to assemble a crew for an extra unscheduled sailing,” vice-president of customer services Corrine Storey said in a media release. “While these incidents can sometimes cause delays, we are happy to provide a safe environment as well as transportation for critical patients from the smaller coastal communities we serve.”

The B.C. Emergency Health Services calls can often consist of a crew being hastily assembled in the middle of the night to transport the residents of places like Sointula, Thetis Island and Gabriola Island over to hospitals on the big island for emergency treatment. Or they involve holding ships at the terminal, or returning them to port, to link up with an ambulance.

Recent incidents include holding the Baynes Sound Connector for 12 minutes for a patient from Denman Island, and a crew being assembled in the dead of night for the Powell River Queen in order to make an unscheduled emergency run from Quadra Island to Campbell River.

“Our working relationship with BC Ferries is an important part of our provincial health care delivery system,” said Jodi Jensen, chief operating officer for BCEHS. “With the help of BC Ferries, our paramedics are able reach our patients in coastal and remote communities and provide them with the emergency medical care that they need.”

In addition to the transportation service, BC Ferries also offers hands-on medical assistance when needed through its more than 800 staff trained in occupational first aid.

“For more serious incidents on board the vessels, crew will make public address announcements requesting assistance from registered medical professionals such as doctors or nurses who are travelling on board, and also call BCAS to have paramedics meet the patient at the terminal. BC Ferries appreciates the assistance all of these professionals provide,” the media release states.

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