For Immediate Release – January 21, 2021
Ambulance paramedics say BC’s two health emergencies create competing priorities
Vancouver, BC – The president of Ambulance Paramedics & Dispatchers of BC said there is no relief in sight for the drug overdose crisis with a pandemic still underway. Troy Clifford said BC’s two health emergencies create competing priorities as people practice COVID19 protocols of social distancing and limiting interactions to only people in their household, which may increase drug use or using drugs in isolation, especially among those living alone.
“The BC Coroners Service noted recently that deaths are trending upward among those aged 60 and over, which anecdotally, may speak to the isolation being felt due to COVID19,” said Clifford. “As Emergency Paramedics & Dispatchers we are receiving more than 70 overdose calls per day across BC.”
According to BC Emergency Health Services, several communities have seen a sharp increase in overdose calls, including Penticton, Kelowna, Prince George, Fort Nelson, Sechelt, and Terrace.
For paramedics, the two health emergencies have meant learning new treatment protocols because overdose patients have significantly more COVID19 risk factors than the general population, according to the Centre for Disease Control.
“Some of these new clinical procedures take more time and can be more complicated,” said Shelby Collis, primary care paramedic. “This adds stress on top of our paramedics witnessing the human toll of the overdose crisis.”
“We implore people to check on their loved ones frequently, especially those living alone,” said Clifford. “If people are going to use drugs, we ask that you make sure someone else is present.”
Clifford said he hopes that once the pandemic is under control and life returns to some semblance of normal, the overdose crisis may improve.