A huge thank-you is in order for all paramedics in BC.

In recognition of National Paramedic Services Week (May 23-29), Ambulance Paramedics of BC President Troy Clifford told Vista Radio they continue to go above and beyond the call of duty in the north, despite being shorthanded most of the time.

“You are really out on your own there. We see some staffing challenges and when this happens in places like Prince George you don’t have the ability to bring resources in quickly to your community when you have the spikes or increases in call volumes or the shortages of staff because there is not enough staff to work. So, that presents some pretty unique challenges.”

He adds the week-long initiative is about highlighting the value of paramedics in our region and what they do for patients on a daily basis.

“It really emphasizes how integral we are on the front lines of health as well as the ability to respond during an emergency and (the pandemic and overdose crisis) challenged us both as a profession and as paramedics we needed to adapt to the changes we were facing.”

The past year and a half have been a challenge, to say the least for paramedics across the province.

First responders have not only had to deal with the pandemic but they also remain in the crosshairs of the illicit drug crisis, which has gone on for over five years.

Clifford stated the volume of overdoses is trending in the wrong direction.

“We are averaging over 90 overdoses a day, which in times like last week where we had sudden increases and another record-setting day. I think we had 140 across the province and of the big things with the opioid crisis is that it’s not getting better, we are seeing increases, which is tragic for the number of lives being lost.”

“We believe that having a safe drug supply and making sure people are a part of the safe usage rehabilitation. We believe there is some really bad stuff that’s being cut right now that is really affecting people’s health. Anytime we can have control or safe usage that is going to be a good thing because we are going to see less overdoses and fewer deaths.”

In terms of ambulance service, Prince George along with some of its rural counterparts face a unique geographical challenge due to a much larger distance between communities.

“You can’t just easily move an ambulance into another location like you can in the Lower Mainland or the more urban areas like the southern parts of Vancouver Island or the Okanagan Valley where there is a proximity of ambulances that are very close so that proves more challenging when you have shortages in northern communities.”

PG paramedics responded to 1,000 overdose calls in 2020.