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: 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

From right: Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, with primary care paramedics Em Funk, Tyrone Trotter, Fiona Galvin and Peter Hill at the Leigh Road station. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore paramedics didn’t waver when faced with COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel are this year’s Courage and Bravery Award recipients

February is Black History Month. (Photo: Government of Canada)
Camosun College highlighting Black content with research guide during Black History Month

The collection includes a range of works by Black authors and creators

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Oak Bay resident uses notes to claim street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

Debra Sheets, a University of Victoria nursing professor, is starting Victoria’s first Memory Cafe program for adults with dementia and their caregivers. (Photo: Debra Sheets)
Memory Cafe Victoria hopes to connect local dementia community

Adults with dementia and their caregivers will participate in weekly Zoom socializing and activities

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read