People don’t understand what it means to be a community responder for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), says Ryan Soucy, acting chief of Yukon EMS.
“A lot of people think it’s like what you see on TV,” he told the News over the phone on Feb. 8. “EMS is about bringing medical care to a home, but it’s also social, it’s about community.”
That’s why the Yukon government increased the on-call honoraria for the volunteer position on Jan. 1.
The last time the honoraria was increased was 2018. At that time, it was bumped up according to the cost of living index, approximately three per cent, to $3.71 per hour. It is now $7.70 per hour.
That fee is what community responders earn while on-call in their communities. They are paid an hourly rate of up to $30.74 for time spent in training or responding to EMS calls.
Soucy said the change wasn’t necessarily made in response to demand for an increase, though it had come up in conversation over the years.
“The direction to kind of move forward with it was driven internally through EMS,” he said.
David Fairbank is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Haines Junction.
“The Village is relieved to see the honoraria rate increase for volunteer EMS service providers,” he said in an email to the News. “We hope that this increase will aid in both recruiting new volunteers and retaining those who have been serving the community for years.”
Soucy said the number of responders in Yukon communities varies throughout the year, from 84 and up.
That includes seven in Beaver Creek, nine in Carcross, nine in Carmacks, six to eight in Dawson City, 10 in Destruction Bay, one to two in Eagle Plains, seven in Faro, 16 in Haines Junction, six in Marsh Lake, four in Pelly Crossing, six in Ross River, four in Tagish, 11 in Teslin and nine in Watson Lake.
When asked if the Yukon looked at other jurisdictions to see what their rates are, or whether pay increases in other jurisdictions resulted in improved recruitment, Soucy said the Yukon is unique and he couldn’t comment on what other jurisdictions do.
He did say that, though community responder numbers fluctuate from community to community, and from summer to winter, those that are involved have typically been involved on a long-term basis.
He also said an announcement about the pay increase resulted in cheers during a phone call with community supervisors last month. Still, while one of the goals of the increase was to “bolster recruitment and retention of EMS community responders,” as per a government press release, Soucy said he doesn’t think the rate of pay is something that keeps people from becoming a responder. Rather, he thinks it’s that misunderstanding around the role community responders play.
He said EMS will look at numbers again in six months to determine whether recruitment has picked up.
In the meantime, recruitment efforts will continue with regular community BBQs, meetings, training opportunities and more.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org