Conversations That Matter: Eight deaths a day

Eight people in B.C. will die today from a drug overdose. Eight people yesterday, eight the day before, eight the day before that and so on.

On March 22, B.C.’s Emergency Health Service responded to 205 overdose poisonings.

“A new provincial record,” said Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. “On April 2, BCEHS experienced the 19th consecutive day in a row where we attended to more than 100 overdose calls. It’s taking a toll on the system and putting paramedics at risk.

“Every single one of those calls for assistance brings with it tremendous risks to paramedics,” Clifford says.

“We’re first responders who encounter and adapt to a wide range of on-scene hazards at every overdose call. Paramedics, in addition to being medical professionals, need to be highly attuned to apparent and hidden threats, employ exceptional interpersonal skills and assertiveness when needed in order to protect themselves.”

“Paramedics face two types of hazards, immediate ones like uncapped needles and aggressive patients. Then there are the even more worrying ones like weapons, aggressive bystanders and the threats associated with working in confined spaces, all of which undermine a paramedic’s ability to be and feel safe.”

Clifford joined a Conversation That Matters about the relentless toll drug poisoning is having on patients, the system and paramedics.