With seven presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, paramedics are on the front-lines. So how do they protect themselves?
“We knew that this was coming … to Saskatchewan sooner or later,” said Troy Davies with Medavie Health Service West, an organization representing EMS companies in Western Canada.
Davies said paramedics were fitted with N95 respirators — or protective masks — early this year, and they have kits with protective equipment. The kits include the paramedics’ masks, paper masks for patients, goggles, sterile gloves and protective gowns.
One big thing for paramedics, he said, has been keeping their trucks and equipment sterile.
“Every time you walk out of your truck, every time you put your hands on the steering wheel and when you take your gloves off, when you touch your door handle with your gloves, little things like that that staff might take for granted is now not taken for granted,” he said.
Paramedics have been treating people at home, when appropriate, to avoid overcrowding emergency rooms. Normally they would bring patients to the hospital.
When going out to those calls, Davies said it’s important for paramedics to have as much information about their patient as they can before they arrive.
“If we know we’re going to a call where someone’s got a fever, they’ve got a runny nose, maybe they were in Mexico last week, we know before we even got to their house probably what we’re walking into,” he said.
Davies said his organization is working with the province’s health authority on “enhanced rolls” for paramedics. Those duties could include checking on senior citizens twice a day to make sure they’re staying hydrated and healthy.
Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn that this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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