Emma is an eight-year BCEHS veteran, and serves in Princeton’s community paramedic program. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

Emma is an eight-year BCEHS veteran, and serves in Princeton’s community paramedic program. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

The faces of courage: A salute to Princeton’s paramedics

The global pandemic has made life and work harder for B.C. paramedics as they hold the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Joe Acker, a paramedic practice leader with BC Emergency Health Service, recently told Black Press the industry has been preparing for the virus since its impacts on China were first understood.

“We’ve changed from business as usual to now, almost all of our time is making sure paramedics are safe,” says Acker, adding that the majority of senior paramedic staff’s day is spent ensuring their safety.

Leading up to the declaration of the pandemic, 911 call takers would ask a series of questions to determine the likelihood of the patient having COVID-19. Now, everyone is treated as if they have the virus.

Related: ‘Different than anything we’ve ever seen’: How B.C. paramedics are responding to COVID-19

This has led to a change in procedure for paramedics making house calls. Normally, a paramedic would walk right in, sit down next to you and start treating your illness — now, paramedics call the patient to the door.

Making sure to stand three metres away, and dressed in full personal protective equipment — protective glasses, the best quality mask you can get, a full apron or gown, a face shield and of course, gloves— paramedics will assess the situation.

Paramedics might have to change in out of all that gear anywhere from six to 10 times a day so as to not contaminate other areas they work in such as the front of the ambulance.

Acker’s urged residents to not call 911 or 811 for every small sign or symptom of the virus.

Use the BC Centre for Disease Control’s online self-assessment and follow the steps from there. “Don’t bother the health professionals unless you absolutely need them because everybody is really busy right now,” he said.

“The public shouldn’t panic, they should take care of themselves but when they do need us they can rest assured we’ll be there for them.”

Related: ‘Incredibly disheartening’ say Kelowna paramedics after vehicle broken into, equipment stolen

—With files from Kendra Crighton

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andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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Karen Reader is the unit chief for Princeton’s detachment of BCEHS, with 18 years on the job. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

Karen Reader is the unit chief for Princeton’s detachment of BCEHS, with 18 years on the job. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

The faces of courage: A salute to Princeton’s paramedics