When the coronavirus pandemic hit, working from home wasn’t an option for everyone.
But that didn’t stop the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) employees stationed on the West Shore from ensuring residents continued to receive care. This vital service was quick to adapt and paramedics remained on the frontlines.
The Courage and Bravery Award honours an individual or group who have exhibited great bravery while facing a threat to their own safety in coming to the aid of another. While conquering fear, this individual triumphed for the benefit of another.
With everything they’ve gone through during the past year and the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we could think of no more worthy recipients of this award than the West Shore B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel.
“Ambulance has always been known as sort of the silent service,” said Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria.
In an interview last fall, Cameron talked about some of the challenges West Shore paramedics had already gone through during the pandemic as they braced for the second wave that was quickly gaining steam.
With 30 years of experience on the street as a paramedic, Cameron has never seen anything like this. “It has added a level of complexity our paramedics have never seen before.”
Unlike sterile environments in hospitals, members of BCEHS are going into homes where there is an enormous viral load. And as Cameron explained, paramedics can’t risk cross-contaminating their ambulance or emergency rooms.
Like many, BCEHS faced a shortage of personal protective equipment and was forced to find alternatives while keeping up with demand. Early supplies of N95 masks ran out but 3M Elastomeric Facepiece Respirators (EFR) had already been sourced. However, that was no small task.
“It’s not just a matter of giving someone a mask and saying ‘here’s your new mask’ … We had to fit test the entire province for the new EFRs,” Cameron said.
Paramedics were then fitted again for another N95 alternative – as well as being outfitted with gowns, gloves, eye protection and more.
“You sweat like you’re standing in a shower,” Cameron said of the summer months. “It’s extremely uncomfortable.”
But despite everything they face during a shift, Cameron said paramedics are some of the most empathetic people on earth. “We go into the tenderest moments of peoples’ lives.”
And their job is never done as they are always responding to the next call.
Nominations for the 2022 Local Hero Awards West Shore open on Feb. 25. To learn more, go to hero.goldstreamgazette.com.
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