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Paramedic program flatlines

A Yukon College program, trumpeted as an opportunity for paramedics to be trained locally, has been cancelled.

A Yukon College program, trumpeted as an opportunity for paramedics to be trained locally, has been cancelled.

Days before it was scheduled to begin, students registered in the Primary Care Paramedic certificate program were told it wasn’t going to happen.

People’s lives were organized with the expectation of starting class, said would-be student Fabienne Brulhart.

“You undergo a very lengthy process in order to get here and basically the Friday before, the program gets cancelled. That’s where I feel the biggest frustration,” she said.

The Primary Care Paramedic certificate is a joint program between the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the college. It was scheduled to start this Monday.

The cost of the five-month course, which includes both an in-class and online portion, was to be covered by the students’ tuition of $11,500 each, explained Dan Anton, the college’s chair of continuing education.

When two of nine students dropped out at the last minute and there was no wait-list to draw on, the program was not financially viable, he said.

“We needed nine to run this. Within the last two weeks one of the students did not follow through on their needing a prerequisite, and then immediately following that last week the final individual was saying their plans had changed.”

Meanwhile Brulhart was unaware of the precarious position her program was in and spent time preparing.

She took the emergency medical responder course - an 80-hour prerequisite required for the program - and put her children in daycare.

Students took a written test and were interviewed by a panel.

Brulhart also completed a physical, bought a uniform and books, and got all the required immunizations. She left her job.

“For me, I’m a mom of two kids. This took me one and a half years to make sure that I had all my pieces of the puzzle in place. Once you have a more set life it’s not just up and go,” she said.

Some students have already met with Anton to express their concerns. Other meetings are planned for next week.

Brulhart said she feels like she was “basically babysitting” people who weren’t committed to taking the program.

“What happens now is that they tried to accommodate two or three people that probably weren’t fully committed and the other people have to live with the consequences,” she said.

Anton said the two people who left the program had been conditionally accepted with the understanding they would complete any requirements before class started.

“In an effort to accommodate all the candidates, we wanted to move forward,” he said.

When the program was run for the first time last year, the college received $276,000 from the territorial government’s Community Development Fund and $40,000 from the education program committee of the Volunteer Ambulance Society plus tuition from students.

While much of that money was spent on start-up costs and equipment, the program is still an expensive one to run, Anton said.

This year’s course received no outside funding and was supposed to be covered only by tuition.

It was scheduled to be delivered by a local instructor trained by the justice institute.

After that instructor backed out this summer, the college would have been forced to spend $104,000 to fly in a trained one from B.C., Anton said.

Without nine students there just wasn’t enough money.

“We wouldn’t even come close to covering the direct cost for the JI (justice institute) which would mean the college is somehow subsidizing the delivery of this, drawing on other resources to pay for it,” he said. “There was no budget allocation for this program. We had modelled it on student tuition covering the cost of production.”

When the program was first announced, it was described as a chance for students from Outside to learn in the Yukon and avoid long waitlists that exist from programs in other jurisdictions.

That never happened.

“We had only a couple of inquiries from the South. Our tuition is significantly higher up here when measured against the tuition in B.C. The further south you go the less expensive it gets. They have larger classes, upwards of 30 people,” Anton said.

“When people look north they couldn’t balance our tuition fees with their options in the south that just seems like a barrier.”

Brulhart said she’s seen tuition in British Columbia for $4,100.

Anton said he feels horrible for what has happened and is working with the students left in the aftermath.

With all the work they’ve done, the students would be pre-qualified to apply for the same program run out of British Columbia in a few weeks.

“The JIBC is well aware of our circumstances up here, they know the individuals. I have expressed to each student that if they would like to contact our contact there, they will ensure that they are in the loop for the seat assignments. This isn’t a full stop with their ability to obtain this training. It is a full stop with it to run in Whitehorse at this time.”

Anton said he will also be reviewing the program to decide what happens next and if any changes can be made to increase interest to create a pool of students on a wait-list.

Contact Ashley Joannou at