News 1130 News Article

B.C. paramedics cautiously optimistic they’re supported for upcoming heatwave

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — President of the Ambulance and paramedics union of B.C., says those who worked on the front lines during the deadly heatwave a month ago will never forget it.

“It could be PTSD, there’s no question that our members were affected by that weekend,” Troy Clifford tells NEWS 1130, adding with another heatwave on the way, he’s cautiously optimistic new measures promised by the B.C. government will save lives.

Earlier this month, the province promised dozens of more paramedics and dispatchers would be hired and, 22 new ambulances would be brought in.

“Really working hard for the last two weeks to be prepared for our shortage of staffing, but also with the heatwave, we’re doing some immediate mitigation stuff this week.”

Clifford says it looks like the province is in a position to up staff and activate cars across the province as well as add additional resources and send people to work overtime when they’re available.

“I hope that the measures they put in place over the next couple days will be able to come to fruition to get us through this short gap that we can get the more permanent solutions that the minister announced and that we’ve been working on.

“But the real goal right now is to make sure we get enough staff as we can paramedics and dispatchers to make sure we meet the demands of both the normal call volumes … and plus the anticipated increase in demands with the heat.”

Clifford says first responders were overworked and understaffed as they respond to the COVID-19, overdose crisis, raging wildfires and now the heat.

“It’s another emergency that we have to deal with,” he says, adding, but he thinks “we are better prepared overall right now.”

“This summer has been really tough on first responders and paramedics in particular and dispatchers. It’s kind of like we were used to dealing with emergencies, but it’s one after another, and now we’re facing another weekend, and they’re exhausted, they’re tired, they’re frustrated … nothing is quick enough to to to support the paramedic dispatchers that we need to do so they’re looking for whatever where they can get from leadership words are one thing, but they need to see action.”

The extreme heat is expected to last from Wednesday through Saturday, but we could see temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s starting on Thursday.

B.C.’s Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, warns the temperatures can have “devastating and deadly consequences.”

During last month’s heatwave, there were 815 sudden deaths reported across the province between June 25 and July 1, a four-time increase over the average for that time period of 198. Heat is believed to be a factor in many of the deaths.

B.C.’s chief coroner says hundreds of deaths – mostly among seniors – were linked to the last heatwave.