A Yukon government pilot program in Haines Junction last summer has determined that it's too expensive to have paid ambulance staff based in the community.
The territory's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) hired six emergency responders last summer to work in Haines Junction for three months. The community had been having trouble finding enough volunteers to offer the ambulance service, especially in summer.
The paid staff, however, were not busy enough to justify the cost, said Yukon EMS director Jeff Simons. Much of their time was spent "standing-by".
"We paid people full time wages to wait for an ambulance call," he said.
"When we did the math and ran all the numbers, out of the roughly 2,000 hours that were worked over the summer, there was 200 hours of actual operational work."
A government report found that the cost-per-call during the three month pilot program in Haines Junction averaged more than $4,000. By comparison, the average cost-per-call in Carmacks and Teslin — where the EMS needs are similar and volunteers are on standby — was about $1,000.
"A full-time staffing model is not financially advisable in any community where call volumes average less than one call per work day," the report states.
The pilot program in Haines Junction also beefed up efforts to recruit and train more EMS volunteers, something mayor Michael Riseborough was pleased with.
"It really is up to the community to try and work within itself to try to increase the number of volunteers," Riseborough said.
According to the government report, the Haines Junction project showed that inexperienced community volunteers can be EMS-trained in about five weeks. The report says similar training would also work in other Yukon communities.