Prince Rupert Community Paramedic Jessica Friesen during Paramedic Service Week from May 23 to 29 said it is the toughest day of a person’s life when they have to call 911. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert Community Paramedic Jessica Friesen during Paramedic Service Week from May 23 to 29 said it is the toughest day of a person’s life when they have to call 911. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

B.C. paramedics service more than half a million calls per year

Paramedic Jessica Friesen says it’s the toughest day of a person’s life when they have to call 911

Ambulance paramedics have the most advanced lifesaving skills and training for frontline situations, with more than half a million emergency calls across B.C. that require ambulance dispatch, Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of BC, said during Paramedic Services Week.

“Our training takes months and years — not hours,” he said

May 23 to 29, 2021 is Paramedic Services Week across Canada, a time to honour and recognize the work of ambulance paramedics.

“This year has seen some of the worst service shortfalls in recent history due to medical leaves, recruitment and retention issues, and a flawed on-call service model,” APBC stated in a media release on May 23.

This year’s theme of Paramedic Services Week is Paramedic as Educator – Citizen Ready.

Prince Rupert has 16 paramedics, two staffed emergency ambulances at all times, as well as community paramedics. Community paramedics specialize in education to prevent 911 calls, and work to stabilize emergency calls to avoid the necessity of a hospital visit. They can do home visits to patients offering educational supports to make them more comfortable. Community Paramedics are licensed at the PCP-IV level or higher to provide non-emergency and scheduled care to patients as part of an integrated healthcare team.

Prince Rupert community paramedic Jessica Friesen, said these services are necessary for rural and smaller communities as there are fewer resources to rely on. The services are vital to communities, and the roles have been constantly changing due to the pandemic conditions with the need to provide the highest service remaining constant.

She said with so many medical emergencies lots of work can go unseen, especially in the pandemic with staff working more shifts, longer shifts, more time needed to clean after a call and there are challenges in communicating with patients through levels of personal protection equipment such as masks and face shields.

For the past two years, Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC) said its 4,500 plus members have felt overwhelming love and support from the public due to the global pandemic and worsening opioid crisis with more than 90 overdose calls per day.

“Our ambulance paramedics and emergency dispatchers appreciate the public’s gratitude at a time when dual health emergencies have led our members to physical and psychological exhaustion,” Clifford said.

From the moment someone calls 911 dispatch and asks for an ambulance, they are connected to an emergency dispatcher who is trained to begin what can be lifesaving medical instruction over the phone as a paramedic team heads their way by ground or air.

Friesen said despite any challenges being a paramedic is rewarding, but they work together as a team with the dispatchers to get successful results. “It’s s the toughest day of a person’s life when they have to call 911. Dispatchers are the first ones to talk to patients. We couldn’t do our jobs without them.”


K-J Millar | Journalist
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