Paramedics adjusting well to 'new normal'

The Optimist chats with Jamie Rodgers, paramedic unit chief in Delta this past week to chat about the challenges paramedics have been facing.

Much like other first responders in Delta, paramedics have had to pivot and change the way they respond to calls as they work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to BCEHS, provincial call volumes have declined by about 14 per cent with an average of 1,400 medical emergency calls a day now down to 1,200 calls a day.

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“We are experiencing significantly fewer motor vehicle incident calls and fewer patient transfers,” said BCEHS spokesperson Shannon Miller.

Miller said influenza-like-illness (ILI) calls are how potential COVID-19 patients are tracked in their dispatch system and BCEHS has been closely monitoring the ILI calls for several months.

She said during the month of March, 12.4 per cent of total calls were ILI related while the first two weeks of April 18 per cent of total calls were ILI related.

At the local level, the Optimist caught up with Jamie Rodgers, paramedic unit chief in Delta this past week to chat about the challenges paramedics have been facing.

Rodgers said the pandemic has changed in the way paramedics respond to calls.

“One thing about paramedicine and patient assessment is that it is all about getting up close to the patient. We are touching and interpreting that patients’ presentation,” he said. “Now because of COVID-19 we have to take additional precautions. We use PPE (personal protection equipment) before we make contact with the patient. We are required to don that necessary PPE before going to the patients’ aid, so that has been an adjustment for us.

“I will say also because we are wearing masks and face shields on every single call, communication has become a little bit more challenging with some patients, especially patients who are hearing impaired. So we are trying to adjust to that, using some non-verbal ques and communication.”

Rodgers said when someone calls 9-1-1 there is a triage system in place to do an assessment. If an ILI is flagged over the phone, that information is relayed to the paramedics before they go in allowing paramedics to wear an additional impervious gown.

“It kind of covers up our uniform, but it gives us additional protection on top of all the other stuff,” Rodgers said.

He said overall paramedics are faring generally well in the field.

“I’m proud to say we are doing excellent. Our staffing levels are better than normal,” he said. “Initially within the first few weeks of the pandemic, people were a little unsure how this was going to develop in the community, but we are very well trained – I would say we are experts in this PPE – it’s effective and it works and my paramedics have been doing a fantastic job of wearing, disposing of the PPE and ensuring their safety as well as the safety of their patients as well.”

He said relationships with other first responders in the community has also been strengthened.

“I’m a big proponent of one team, one goal with fire and police,” he said. “I have great relationships with both of those organizations. As well our relationships from the hospital and the community have been strengthened by how this pandemic has unfolded. I’m also impressed by how the community has responded. I live in Tsawwassen and I have noticed a lot of kindness, following the social distancing to help prevent the spread. After a difficult shift, that support really helps us to re-charge our batteries.

“One evening I was working in a supervisor vehicle and I pulled over in a neighbourhood and just put my windows down and heard the cheers. It was really uplifting. It really helps.”

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