The union representing B.C.’s paramedics says three-quarters of 911 calls coming in to ambulance dispatchers are related to suspicions of COVID-19, which can potentially lead to a delay in response to more urgent calls.
Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, says 75 per cent of calls at present are related to the coronavirus or flu-like symptoms.
The organization says fears over COVID-19 are understandable, but calls that don’t require emergency care or hospitalization can tie up emergency crews.
The spike in such calls has forced paramedics to be more diligent in their use of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE.
“When we’re doing regular ambulance calls, our paramedics are responding … using basic PPE,” Clifford says. “We are now seeing the we have had to gown up and be in full protective equipment, which adds extra stress.”
Governments and health officials are advising people that if they believe they may have COVID-19 but are not in distress, they should self-isolate at home, and call 811 or their doctor.
Paramedics also say that more callers who have a genuine emergency are refusing to be taken to hospital out of fear of COVID-19.
Dispatchers have noticed a drop in other calls such as car crashes, falls, assaults, and workplace incidents, possibly because so many people are staying home.