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Head of BC Emergency Health Services leaving her position

Click to play video: 'Head of the BC Emergency Health Services apologizes to families who lost loved ones in the deadly heat wave' Head of the BC Emergency Health Services apologizes to families who lost loved ones in the deadly heat wave
WATCH: We're hearing from Darlene Mackinnon for the first time since this week's fatal extreme heat crisis, which overwhelmed the already struggling ambulance service. But as Jordan Armstrong reports, questions remain about the organization's response to the emergency. – Jul 1, 2021

The head of BC Emergency Health Services, which operates the province’s ambulance service, has left her post.

Chief Operating Officer Darlene MacKinnon has moved to a new job as COO at BC Mental health and Substance Use Services effective immediately, BCEHS confirmed Friday.

“(The Provincial Health Services Authority) supports her decision and we look forward to the patient and people-centred leadership she will bring to this important portfolio,” a spokesperson for BCHES said in a statement.

“Ms. Mackinnon is a strong health care leader with more than 16 years experience in clinical operations, professional practice, quality improvement, and strategic and capital planning.”

Read more: B.C. paramedic calls for head of BCEHS to resign over response to deadly heat wave

Recruiting for a new COO is expected to begin next week. Acting COO Neil Lilley will cover the position in the interim.

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In the wake of B.C.’s deadly heat dome, MacKinnon faced calls from some paramedics to resign, with a petition calling for her ouster garnering more than 14,000 signatures.

Click to play video: 'Global News interview leads to petition to fire head of BC Ambulance Service' Global News interview leads to petition to fire head of BC Ambulance Service
Global News interview leads to petition to fire head of BC Ambulance Service – Jul 6, 2021

The BC Coroners Service estimates nearly 600 people died during the summer’s record-breaking heat wave.

BCEHS faced criticism in the wake of the event for a slow response, including not activating its 24-hour, seven-day-a-week emergency coordination centre until the day temperatures began to drop again.

In an interview with Global News following the heat dome, MacKinnon apologized for long waits but defended BCEHS’s response, saying staff had done the best they could in an “unprecedented crisis.”

“It’s been incredibly hard, but we’re incredibly proud of our staff and I think that we’ve done a very good job in the response,” she said.

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In July, the province overhauled BCEHS, creating a new position of chief ambulance officer and pledging to hire for 85 new full-time paramedic positions.

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