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

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Hotel Zed Tofino. (Westerly file photo)
Two Tofino businesses up for building awards

14th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read