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Paramedics raise the alarm in Okanagan regarding access to medical care in the middle of Omicron – Okanagan

Paramedics in the Okanagan and across British Columbia have long called for more resources, but the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is renewing those calls again.

“We’ve added a lot of resources, but we’re still seeing these shortages,” said Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC.

Clifford told Global News that in the Okanagan, staffing levels are significantly impacted.

“We’ve consistently seen 30 to 40 percent of our ambulances out of service across the interior, but the province really elsewhere,” Clifford said.

“But before the heat dome in the summer, and even before that, I mean, it has gradually been constant since then. We also see these challenges in major centres, such as Kelowna and Kamloops.

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Now, Omicron’s highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 is compounding the problem with an increase in cases.

“We are also starting to see an increase in the number of paramedics and dispatchers off work due to community exposure to Omicron and COVID,” Clifford said. “And that puts extra pressure on top of that, that’s for sure.”

The pressure drives Clifford to sound the alarm about access to emergency care.

“All the pressures we’re adding are going to put more pressure on people’s access to emergency care and 911 to the emergency call taker,” Clifford said.

“With a shortage of operators, we can’t respond to calls in a timely manner and assess or triage, so if there is a need (of someone) they won’t be able to…we’re not going to be able to reach them that quickly. .

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In an email to Global News, the Department of Health said British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is experiencing higher than normal levels of out-of-service.

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“On average last week, from January 3 to 9, almost 30% of ambulances were unstaffed in the Vancouver Coastal region, and just over 35% of Fraser Region ambulances were unstaffed,” said the Ministry.

“For context, average outage levels in the spring of 2021 were 18% in the Vancouver Coastal region and 19% in the Fraser region.”

The email went on to say that the BCEHS maintains its goal of responding to the most critically ill and injured patients first by prioritizing ambulance response based on a medical priority dispatch system that is used in the whole world.

He also said the BCEHS dispatch has a process to upgrade a call to a higher priority response if a patient’s condition worsens.

The ministry said the BCEHS monitors staffing levels and makes daily adjustments as necessary.

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British Columbia paramedics under strain as staffing issues worsen

British Columbia paramedics under strain as staffing issues worsen

According to the Kelowna Firefighters Union, medical calls are on the rise. However, Chairman Jason Picklyk said it was unclear whether this was attributed to a shortage of ambulances on the road.

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Picklyk said this is the time of year when calls for help usually increase. He also pointed to the ongoing pandemic, which has more patients requiring medical attention.

The fire department’s workforce has not been significantly affected, but that could change as more people fall ill.

According to the union, plans are underway for this possibility.

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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