Up to 75 per cent of the calls to B.C. Ambulance Service now involve patients who are suspected COVID-19 cases or who have flu-like symptoms, said the service’s provincial president Troy Clifford.
Instead of calling 911, said Clifford, he would like to see people use the proper resources available to them like calling 811 or their family doctor.
At the same time, though, he does not want to deter people from calling for help.
“People are scared and they’re fearful right now and they are looking for information,” said Clifford.
“We want to make sure people are getting the support and guidance but not tying up for non-emergency or non-transport treatment or transport situation,” he said.
So what they are doing is filtering out those calls through their paramedic dispatchers and diverting the calls that end up in the 911 system.
But, Clifford said, they will work with people to find the best resources for them.
Paramedics have changed their assessment process when approaching calls with more diligent questioning and they look at ways to minimize any contact between them and the patient.
But, the crisis is taking its toll on paramedics, noted Clifford.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, paramedics could go a full shift without putting on their full-protective gear. Now they have to do it for three quarters of their calls.
“That’s adding to undue pressure and stress because you’re worried and you want to make sure you’ve done it properly,” said Clifford.
And the new measures has also doubled the time-frame for each call.
But the public has been overwhelmingly supportive of front-line workers, said Clifford, that it encourages them to keep doing what they are doing.
“If everybody does their part we will be able to beat this horrible virus.”