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Paramedic Services Week highlights changes for front-line workers amid coronavirus pandemic

Paramedics across the country are observing Paramedic Services Week amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Elisha Dacey/Global News

This year’s Paramedic Services Week is taking place right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and like everything else, calls to 911 for medical help have changed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Nikki Little, quality and patient safety officer with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, told 680 CJOB there are a lot of extra steps being taken to ensure the safety of both patients and responding paramedics.

“It requires a lot of diligent attention for them to keep up to date — personal protective equipment, sanitation, decontamination process, all of these things add extra time and intensity to an already stressful circumstance,” said Little.

“The communication piece is strained. It’s hard to look at a patient in the eyes and connect, make sure that you’re telling them that they’re OK, when you’re covered in all of this equipment.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service issuing new protocols

On top of the stress of keeping themselves safe, Little said, paramedics have the extra concern that simply going to work could result in them unintentionally exposing loved ones to the coronavirus.

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“Telling friends and family that you’re going to work and you’re being exposed and coming home and fearing that you might expose them is very real as well,” she said.

The Paramedic Chiefs of Canada (PCC) is recognizing the unprecedented circumstances for this year’s Paramedic Services Week, which runs until Saturday, with the theme “Paramedics on the front line” and focusing on the way emergency workers are dealing with this crisis.

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“The PCC endeavours to highlight the contributions of important roles played by paramedic professionals during a pandemic outbreak,” the organization said. “These proud professionals are well-positioned in their mobile role to make significant contributions working toward protecting the health and well-being of the citizens they serve, you.”

Click to play video: 'The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19' The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19 – Mar 2, 2020

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