Dawson City, Yukon, residents look to create local ambulance service to fill EMS gaps

An ambulance in Dawson City. Some local residents, fed up with gaps in EMS services in Dawson, have formed an association to look at offering ambulance service as a complement to what’s currently available. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

“There’s a number of people out there who want to volunteer,” said co-founder of new group.

For months, residents in Dawson City, Yukon, have been criticizing the territorial government over the lack of ambulance service in the community.

Now, they’re looking to fill some of the gaps themselves.

Last month, the Dawson City Ambulance Association was formed to help fins solutions for when there is no ambulance or paramedic service available.

Mike Ellis is a former volunteer with Dawson’s emergency medical services, and he co-founded the new group.

“There’s a number of people out there who want to volunteer,” Ellis told CBC News. “But don’t feel they’re able to in the Yukon EMS [YEMS] system, and there’s a gap that YEMS consistently don’t seem to be able to fill for whatever reason,” Ellis said.

“So we want to try and look at different ways of doing that.”

Ellis said the main focus behind his association is to find community-based solutions. He said the idea is still in its early stages but the model he wants to follow is one that he says the old ambulance service in Dawson used to have.

“It’s a very similar approach that the volunteer fire department work,” said Ellis. “You have multiple people available for blocks of time and if there’s a need, a call goes out to a bigger group of people to see who’s available to provide that support — with a commitment that at least one or two people are available to do that.”

Ellis said local primary-care paramedics, nurses, doctors and emergency medical responders have already expressed their interest in discussing how they could contribute once the service is established.

He also said the association has access to a vehicle that is insured for patient transport and is ready to go.

Dawson City’s fire chief Mike Masserey also expressed his interest in Ellis’s idea.

Masserey spoke out in September about how his department has been responding to EMS calls when there is no ambulance in service. He said it’s something his department isn’t properly trained or certified to do.

He said he supports any initiative that helps ease the stress on his department, and on the community.

“I do know they have some highly-trained people,” Masserey said, referring to the new association. “Yes. I’m absolutely, you know, a hundred per cent behind getting something in place.”

Dawson City’s fire chief Mike Masserey spoke out in September about how his department has been responding to EMS calls when there is no ambulance in service. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Masserey said there are challenges, though.

“They have to go through a couple of hoops,” he said. “They’ve got to go … to the minister of community services and say, ‘Hey, we absolutely want to know when they have, and have not, got somebody in place, because when they haven’t got somebody in place we have to have that ability to fill that gap.'”

Complement to existing service, Ellis says

During a recent presentation to Dawson City’s town council, Yukon EMS’s deputy chief of technical operations Ryan Soucy said that Dawson currently has 85 per cent local ambulance coverage.

Ellis questions if that would be acceptable for a municipality like Whitehorse. He said it’s all the more reason to have additional support to bring community coverage to 100 per cent.

He said the service isn’t meant to replace the current services being provided by the territorial government. He said this would just be a way to complement it.

CBC News requested interviews with Yukon EMS, and the Department of Community Services, but nobody was immediately available.

Ellis told CBC News that his association attempted to speak with Yukon EMS on ways to develop a collaborative model but there was no response until recently.

“Interestingly, after over a month, we got an email from YEMS late Tuesday afternoon saying they were interested to meet and learn about the aim to provide an EMS service and to hear the plan,” he said.

Ellis also plans to attend the next City of Dawson, and Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation council meetings next month as a delegate to propose the new service.

CBC News asked Ellis how his volunteer service would work better than the current service being offered by YEMS.

“They’ve been trying to do the same thing for a number of years now,” he said.

“Despite seeing things getting more and more challenging with the current model, there hasn’t been a change. So you keep doing the same things the same way and expect different results … that doesn’t happen.

“We’re trying to change that a little bit by exploring a different way of doing this.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada : Firefighters shouldn’t have to fill gaps in ambulance service: Dawson City fire chief, CBC News

Finland : Police response times up to an hour slower in Arctic Finland, Yle News

Norway : Police in Arctic Norway say helicopter now needed for border surveillance, The Independant Barents Observer

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *