B.C. Emergency Health Services primary care paramedic Em Funk shows off the personal protective equipment their team uses whenever they are dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19 while on the job. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

B.C. Emergency Health Services primary care paramedic Em Funk shows off the personal protective equipment their team uses whenever they are dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19 while on the job. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

COVID-19 infection rate among B.C. paramedics almost zero

Eight B.C. Emergency Health Services Members have tested positive for COVID-19

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, B.C. Ambulance Service members have been weathering the second wave.

When the pandemic hit, the agency was forced to add levels of protection for paramedics and their patients. That protection has been credited with keeping infection rates among members to almost zero.

With 30 years of experience as a paramedic, Brad Cameron, B.C. Emergency Health Services superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, has never experienced this. “It has added a level of complexity our paramedics have never seen before.”

On average, B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) sees about 1,400 calls a day across the province. Of the 4,500 employees, eight have tested positive for COVID-19 – one of which was on the Island – since the start of the pandemic to the end of October. But of those eight positive cases, seven were found to have contracted the virus from family members – not on the job.

Unlike the sterile environments found in hospitals, members of B.C. Ambulance Service are entering homes and encountering an “enormous viral load,” Cameron explained. “It’s not the same environment … they can’t slip up.”

ALSO READ: In a pandemic, those on the front lines face unique mental health challenges

ALSO READ: West Shore first responders raise alarm after dramatic increase in mental health calls

Paramedics cannot risk cross-contaminating their units or emergency rooms.

This means paramedics are suiting up differently for calls and it’s creating some challenges – aside from the equipment itself being uncomfortable. While paramedics are gearing up, they’re often faced with family members or the person who has called them, demanding they drop the extra protocols because the patient doesn’t have COVID.

“We don’t know that and we can’t take a risk,” Cameron said. “They get quite angry and take it out on the paramedics.”

Like many, BCEHS faced a shortage of personal protective equipment when the pandemic hit and was forced to find alternatives while keeping up with daily demand. Early supplies of N95 masks ran out but 3M Elastomeric Facepiece Respirators (EFR) had already been sourced. However, that was no small task.

“It’s not just a matter of giving someone a mask and saying ‘here’s your new mask’ … We had to fit test the entire province for the new EFRs,” Cameron said.

Paramedics were then fitted again for another N95 alternative – as well as being outfitted with gowns, gloves, eye protection and more.

“The complexities of what we put our paramedics through is unbelievable,” Cameron said.

ALSO READ: West Shore’s finest continue to serve and protect


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering of the proposed development at the intersection of Leon Avenue and Water Street. (Contributed)
Massive Leon Ave development coming back to Kelowna council

The towers would stand at 24, 28 and 42 storeys, the largest of which would be the tallest building in the city

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna’s Stuart Park outdoor ice rink opening delayed

Recent provincial health orders have again shifted the city’s strategy regarding the popular rink

The Rutland IGA is located in Willow Park Shopping Centre at 590 BC-33. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Customer asked to mask up, throws hot coffee at Rutland IGA employee

The woman grabbed cat food on her way out when she refused to wear a mask

Police service dog Fitz helped track and rescue a lost hiker and his dog in Kelowna. (Kelowna RCMP)
Kelowna police dog Fitz dies of cancer

Fitz recently helped locate a lost hiker in the Central Okanagan

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

City of Armstrong Public Works Yard. (Google Maps)
Armstrong city staffer threatened in snow removal complaint

Community services manager says ‘veiled threat’ is believed to have been flippant, but is being taken seriously

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Okanagan Quality Life Society which usually gives tours of Okanagan Lake to seniors and shut-ins on its boat Heaven Can Wait has created a virtual tour video in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the tours in 2020. (Morning Star - file photo)
Okanagan Lake virtual boat tours launched

Okanagan Quality Life Society normally gives tours on Okanagan Lake on its boat Heaven Can Wait

Most Read