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New service provider in the works for BC Nurseline

VICTORIA – The government of British Columbia announced in March 2006 that it plans to transfer BC NurseLine to the Emergency Health Services Commission. After exploring the possibility of finding another service provider, and performing due diligence through a Joint Solutions Procurement process, BCNurseLine will be operated by the public sector for the first time.

The Ministry of Health has discontinued negotiations regarding BC NurseLine with Clinidata Corporation. Ending negotiations is an option under all Joint Solution Procurement processes when it does not appear that the parties will be able to negotiate a contract.

The Emergency Health Services Commission was established under the Health Emergency Act and oversees the BC Ambulance Services. Its mandate is currently broad enough to include provision of BC NurseLine. Both the ministry and BC NurseLine see tremendous potential in this partnership going forward to enable more opportunities for the public to make informed decisions about their personal health. Additional regulations are being considered under the Health Emergency Act which would permit the commission to provide BC Bedline, a service that facilitates the transfer of critically ill patients to hospitals with more appropriate levels and types of care.

The move to the Emergency Health Services Commission is in keeping with the government’s commitment to expand and strengthen the BC NurseLine service beyond the enhancements of the last four years. The BC NurseLine budget has almost tripled, rising from $5 million in 2001/02 to nearly $15 million in 2005/06. This funding strengthened British Columbians’ access to care in rural and remote communities and enabled the addition of the pharmacist service and innovative pilot projects to support those with chronic disease. This next step will build on this foundation with a view to ultimately expanding the service to include physician involvement, mental health support and crisis intervention.

The BC NurseLine, BC Bedline and other BC HealthGuide services will continue to operate as normal. The contract with the current service provider for the BC NurseLine services will be extended until services are transferred to the Emergency Health Services Commission.

The BC NurseLine provides thousands of British Columbians with 24-hour, toll-free access to registered nurses or a pharmacist from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. every day. Specially trained nurses answer questions about health topics and procedures, identify symptoms, and help callers decide when to see a health professional. Information and referrals are also provided to other services. Pharmacists are available to answer questions about medications. In the last year, the number of calls to BC NurseLine increased 60,000 to 330,000 calls in 2004/05 from 270,000 calls in 2003/04.

BC Bedline provides an important service to British Columbians by assisting physicians and other health-care providers with the timely transfer of emergency and urgent patients to beds with the appropriate level of care.