Something extremely unusual happened this week in BC’s sometimes overwhelmed healthcare system.

St. John Ambulance Attendants were deployed to the Vancouver General Hospital emergency department to provide patient care.

This work is normally done by hospital staff.

In a message, the staff learned that these assistants would remain there until Saturday (July 17) to function at the level of licensed practical nurses.

However, these assistants cannot dispense medication.

Their duties include everything from helping patients use the bathroom, pushing gurneys, pulling IVs, making bandages, and answering bells, among other jobs.

According to the St. John Ambulance website, Canadians have volunteered with the organization for more than 130 years.

There are 15,000 frontline volunteers in Canada

The Right contacted Vancouver Coastal Health this afternoon (July 16) seeking answers as to why these assistants were in the VGH emergency department.

A Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson said no one will be able to respond until Monday (July 19).

Here are the questions that Right hopes to have addressed:

1. Has this been done before?

2. Has Vancouver Coastal Health conducted an assessment of liability issues in relation to first aid volunteers performing work normally performed by trained professionals? If so, what did that evaluation conclude?

3. Who made the decision to send St. John ‘Ambulance volunteers to the emergency room?

4. Have they been sent to other emergency rooms within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region?

5. What arrangements has Vancouver Coastal made with WorkSafe BC to ensure these volunteers are covered in the event of injuries?

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There is no information on the Vancouver Coastal Health website about St. John Ambulance volunteers providing care to patients in acute care emergency rooms.

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