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 suspect is described as approximately 20-25 years old, between 5’3 to 5’4, with dark hair. He was wearing black Adidas pants, white shoes, and a puffy grey jacket. Photo supplied
Attempted robbery in Courtenay

Investigators from the Comox Valley RCMP Major Crime Unit are investigating

The Fifth Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
Fifth Street Bridge repairs to proceed in Courtenay

The unofficial results are in for the Fifth Street Bridge Rehabilitation Alternative… Continue reading

Windy conditions in Nanaimo’s Lost Lake area. (News Bulletin file photo)
Wind warning issued for the east coast of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada says people ‘should be on the lookout’ for adverse weather conditions

BC Hydro will release higher volumes of water down the Puntledge River on Nov. 24-25. Black Press file photo
BC Hydro testing hydroelectric facility system along Puntledge River all week

Tests will result in high water levels, possible siren initiation

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

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

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Product Care offers more than <a href="http://link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com/ls/click?upn=pDYyTceU0YgTDdsd92GohdQJsmSiPFEkcB4MdMM0Qkoqb1aJA-2By5aWklKJXV6QRdyTteNjr2FccUOVLUe4t5Zw-3D-3D1ds-_KVyBcpjXADXifSWVpM8nQcAzSm9-2B6fEFnjVrTsOcu31irDHDxi5k0QTOIWCqMXUxaNbrf0yRzXSSpROCkfx3NkUtbr65Dkcw1J0by-2F-2BDdDiJGbcfhtjHWYSs66NwakeCCLYkj20e9ICIZsLcedqNZKBhsN0sGgBsInpdzsddYikUZkmQvFdxLJhakpgAA6aAJ5ScUoWR6vO9sM819vRB-2F6x7dsdfIaWa4ZgHxR4G7hauxgSJCsNI2bP5J62EFfM0aiDqRPwUPUjt7i5-2FMqpdJxrEBewnLky-2B3lE0JAmi5UsJBkJejuLOjsndZz4b7dNgbvt6KyewKuF0sxU2rpYgkAO9YAKc9STuFJd28Qn7jE0-2FqlB8HKOvpW150NHS-2BOMBcK5rkZ8YAuPqJy11k-2BgndiKB-2FWl2icAfbWtRGJPb8fM-3D" target="_blank">150 free drop-off locations</a> in B.C. (Pixabay.com)
Recycling broken or burnt string lights can reduce holiday landfill waste

In 2019, Product Care Recycling diverted more than 11.6 million light bulbs from landfills

Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)
B.C. woman who survived Spanish Flu turns 105

Helen Watson has packed a lot into life – including being in two pandemics

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. to test emergency alert system on cell phones, TVs, radios on Wednesday

The alert is part of a twice yearly test of the national Alert Ready system

Most Read