New study calls on B.C. paramedics for COVID-19 impact

Paramedics have been working on the front lines of the pandemic for almost a year, and now the government wants to learn how it’s impacted them.

A new study out of B.C. and Ontario is asking 5,000 paramedics to complete surveys and give blood samples over the next year. It’ll also examine what PPE is used and what medical duties they’re performing that could increase their exposure risk, like CPR.

The goal is to find out how many paramedics have had COVID-19, how they might have caught it, and how to better protect them.

According to the president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, Troy Clifford, the research is welcome and encouraged.

“We play a critical role in the health care system and public safety, and we’re often working in environments that lack control which put our members that at risk of being exposed to multiple different pathogens, including COVID-19,” he says.

“The issue of exposure testing and protective measures within the paramedic profession is significant concern to us and that’s why we recognize that there’s limited research. And when a group like this, and the federal government, is recognizing the need to research this and support the evidence-based information within this profession… [it’s] really huge.”

Clifford also says paramedics are in a unique situation compared to hospital workers, having to do their job outside of a sterilized environment.

“We’re going into care homes that are some of the highest risk situations, we’re often in the back of an ambulance, which is a really confined space,” he says adding it only contributes to the mental stress that comes with the job.

“It’s been a tough year on paramedics on the front line,” Clifford says. “We’re seeing incredible call volume, particularly in the Lower Mainland area, and every call we’re in full PPE which adds incredible fatigue on the paramedics to make sure that they’re safe, not only for themselves but for their patients.”

The study’s being led in part by an emergency room physician at UBC, Dr. Brian Grunau. Clifford says he approached Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. about the idea, along with other organizations, before the project was approved.

He says there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the study and he’s already signed up to take part.