In Feb. 2019 police and fire crews attended the scene of an ambulance crash along Hwy 16, to assist the vehicle’s passengers. (The Northern View file photo)

In Feb. 2019 police and fire crews attended the scene of an ambulance crash along Hwy 16, to assist the vehicle’s passengers. (The Northern View file photo)

Four-wheel drive ambulances not in the cards for Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii

No four-wheel drive ambulances for the north

Four-wheel drive vehicles may be a staple for northern residents, especially in the winter, but that doesn’t extend to the B.C. Ambulance Service.

That news comes from the service in response to a District of Houston request that ambulances be either four-wheel or all-wheel drive.

“It is a major safety risk that our emergency services vehicles may be unequipped to reach patients or hospital destinations in other communities in adverse weather conditions,” the council stated in a briefing note prepared for health minister Adrian Dix.

For Houston, that’s critical because while it has a health centre, the nearest hospitals are either approximately one hour’s drive east to Burns Lake or one hour’s drive west to Smithers.

“Many elderly residents may be unable to regularly shovel snow from their driveways, meaning that ambulances may have restricted access to private residences,” the Houston council briefing note added.

And many residents live on rural, unpaved roads that may be steep or unmaintained, the note said.

While this may be of concern to areas in the north that receive higher amounts of snow, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), say the lack of four-wheel drive ambulances are not a concern for residents in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii where wet roads and ice are more common.

Last winter saw an incident off of Highway 16 between Rupert and Port Edward where an ambulance skid off the icy road and crashed. However, according to BCEHS four-wheel drive does not help in icy conditions.

“Our current rural ambulances are well equipped to drive in winter and offer benefits and practical advantages of two-wheel drive. A 4×4 vehicle is not any further help to crews in icy conditions,” Shannon Miller Communications Officer, BCEHS.

READ MORE: Ambulance crashes along Highway 16

Miller did add that the service’s ambulances are equipped with snowflake-rated tires and do carry chains.

“On Haida Gwaii, the main issue in regard to ambulances I’ve heard has been around staffing challenges as well as the challenge that the reduced Kwuna ferry service has caused with patient transport during the evenings,” she said.

The elimination of the second ferry shift has meant that the Canadian Coast Guard has had to step up and provide patient transport to and from Moresby and Graham islands during the evenings. The vessel is an open boat and not designed for transporting immobile people in often adverse weather conditions, Rice explained.

The restoration of the Kwuna ferry service, although delayed in implementation is expected to alleviate Haida Gwaii’s patient transport challenge during the evenings.

The ambulance service did experiment with four-wheel drive vehicles in rural and northern areas, and some are still in service, but overall found them unsuitable, Miller said.

“The primary reason the trial was not expanded is the 4×4 ambulances presented a safety risk for our paramedics,” she said.

“The nature of a 4×4 ambulance means an increased floor height, significantly increasing the risk of injury while loading and unloading the ambulance. Musculoskeletal injuries are by far the leading cause of injury for paramedics.”

Paramedics also found the 4×4 chassis to have a much stiffer and rougher riding suspension, affecting the comfort of patients being transported in the unit.

Specific to rural areas, the service has introduced ambulances with a longer wheelbase chassis which allows for a larger fuel tank to increase range and provide additional storage space for winter gear for the paramedics, she said.

“As we continue our regular replacement of vehicles, more of these ambulances will be in rural areas such as Houston,” Miller said.

And when ambulance crews do need assistance during winter weather conditions, such as dealing with snowed-in rural driveways, they’ll call on other first responder services.

BCEHS had nine four wheel drive ambulances in their provincial fleet. One is used for training and learning and the others are in Burns Lake, Dease Lake, Seton Portage, Zeballos, Gold Bridge, Bella Coola, Lillooet and Pemberton.

READ MORE: Night vision for Rupert’s air ambulances


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

District of Port EdwardNorthern Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A ball balances on the rim. New basketball court surfaces and nets will be installed as part of the McBride Street Multi-sport Court Redevelopment project to which Pembina donated $20,000. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Nothing but net for $20,000 Pembina donation

McBride Street multi-sport court redevelopment project in the planning

Ben Spencer has overcome the challenges of having a tenth-grade education and imparts the importance of education by teaching Sm’alygax to students. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our city: Ben Spencer

Teacher of traditional language and Sm’alygax fluency

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

I want to fly higher. Eva Moore and her brother Leroy Moore are treated to some high pushes from Simon Temple while swinging at Moose Tot Park on April 15. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Photo Gallery: Prince Rupert tots enjoy fun in the sun

Warmer weather is attracting kids of all ages to play outside

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read