Something extremely unusual occurred this week in B.C.'s sometimes overwhelmed health-care system.
St. John Ambulance attendants were deployed in the Vancouver General Hospital emergency department to perform patient care.
This work is ordinarily done by hospital staff.
In a message, staff learned that these attendants would remain there until Saturday (July 17) to function at the level of licensed practical nurses.
However, these attendants cannot dispense medication.
Their tasks include everything from helping patients use the toilet, pushing stretchers, taking out IVs, doing dressings, and answering call bells, among other jobs.
According to the St. John Ambulance website, Canadians have been volunteering with the organization for more than 130 years.
There are 15,000 front-line volunteers in Canada
The Straight contacted Vancouver Coastal Health early this afternoon (July 16) seeking answers about why these attendants were in the VGH emergency department.
A Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson said that nobody will be able to respond until Monday (July 19).
Here are the questions that the Straight hopes to have addressed:
1. Has this ever been done before?
2. Has Vancouver Coastal Health done an assessment of liability issues in connection with first-aid volunteers doing work normally done by trained professionals? If so, what did that assessment conclude?
3. Who made the decision to dispatch St. John' Ambulance volunteers to the emergency room?
4. Have they been dispatched to other emergency rooms within the Vancouver Coastal health region?
5. What arrangements has Vancouver Coastal done with WorkSafe B.C. to ensure that these volunteers are covered in the event of injury?
There's no information on the Vancouver Coastal Health website about St. John Ambulance volunteers providing patient care in acute-care emergency rooms.