Thank you Kelowna paramedics

Shawna Winter has worked with BC Ambulance for 14 years.Shawna Winter has worked with BC Ambulance for 14 years.
Roy Stanley works with BC Ambulance.Roy Stanley works with BC Ambulance.
Gord Cheyne has worked with BC Ambulance for 30 years.Gord Cheyne has worked with BC Ambulance for 30 years.
Don Hagen has worked with BC Ambulance for 36 years.Don Hagen has worked with BC Ambulance for 36 years.
David McKinstry works with BC Ambulance.David McKinstry works with BC Ambulance.
Daryl Edwards has worked with BC Ambulance for 22 years.Daryl Edwards has worked with BC Ambulance for 22 years.
Bruce Zappone has worked with BC Ambulance for 11 years.Bruce Zappone has worked with BC Ambulance for 11 years.
Brandon Bullach has worked with BC Ambulance for six years.Brandon Bullach has worked with BC Ambulance for six years.
Troy Jackson has worked with BC Ambulance for 27 years.Troy Jackson has worked with BC Ambulance for 27 years.

While a large majority of society is following the recommendations of Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to self-isolate in these uncertain times, several groups, including first responders, continue to work on the front line.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline medical workers have had to dramatically change their routines to adapt to the virus.

That being said, viruses are nothing new; BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) paramedics have long been trained in how to approach, screen and assess patients with signs and symptoms of suspected infections disease.

Since before the introduction of COVID-19, BCEHS has had established an infection prevention and control plan which prioritizes the safety of patients and the safety of their paramedics. All BCEHS call-takers and dispatchers are on alert for any Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) symptoms and flag them in the dispatch system.

However, some things have changed.

“Responding to potential COVID-19 calls on a regular basis can be mentally and physically exhausting,” said BCEHS Central Okanagan District manager of patient care delivery, Michael Boyarski.

In addition to the increased fatigue on frontline medical workers, the coronavirus has resulted in several changes to BCEHS’s process and procedures.

If a patient is suspected of exposure to COVID-19, BCEHS paramedic specialists are also notified and help guide paramedics in their response.

With community transmission of COVID-19, BCEHS has also revised its personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols to protect the health and safety of paramedics. Paramedics now respond to every call, and any patient interaction, wearing gloves, an N95 mask and face shield.

However, BCEHS stressed this does not necessarily mean they are responding to a COVID-19 patient.

The organization reiterated that responding infectious illness, or potential COVID-19 calls on a regular basis can be both physically and mentally exhausting for paramedics, particularly when it’s part of their average daily call volume of approximately 1400 emergency calls, every day, across the province.

“The dedication and resolve I’ve seen from our crews to provide patient care across the Okanagan are second to none,” said Boyarski. “I am honoured to lead and serve beside them.”

The district manager thanked individuals for staying home and socially distancing.

“It helps protect our paramedics on the front line,” he said.

Despite difficult times, Boyarski said he has seen an overwhelming amount of support from local businesses and the general public for all healthcare workers including paramedics.

“We really are in this together,” he said.

BCEHS reminded the public they should only call 9-1-1 for medical emergencies. Also, the organization stressed that their 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers cannot provide COVID-19 updates or information.

For non-medical COVID-19 questions, individuals should call 811 or the provincial helpline at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

READ MORE: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

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editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

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