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Paramedics saluted for going above and beyond call of duty

Paramedics are often the backbone of our emergency health system and this week they are getting some much-needed recognition from the province.

This week is Paramedic Services Week in our province recognizing the tireless work and the large call volume they face on a daily basis.

Deb Trumbley is the Director, Patient Care Delivery, for the North and told Vista Radio while the job can rewarding, it can also take a mental toll especially when it comes to the toxic drug crisis.

“Paramedics are exposed to far more traumatic events than everyday people are in their normal life and we have a few strategies around it. We do have a critical incident stress management team that takes care of our folks and we also have a lot of resources for our paramedics in building mental health resilience.”

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“The job has always been difficult and that is what makes paramedics so amazing is that they face these challenges day in and day out and month after month, year after year.”

Trumbley adds under their new agreement, paramedics are able to take time off after a difficult call and are encouraged to take a vacation and accrued overtime.

Paramedics continue to be caught in the crosshairs of BC’s toxic drug crisis, which claimed over 12-thousand lives in 2016.

In Prince George, paramedics responded to a record-high 1,466 drug overdose calls in 2022.

“The toxic drug crisis is no different. It weighs on our paramedics that we have these toxic substances in our society and system-wide, it does mean an increase in call volume as well so we are having to manage through that,” added Trumbley.

That equated to the sixth-highest call volume among  BC cities trailing Vancouver (7,827), Surrey (2,864), Victoria (2,037), Kelowna (1,824), and Abbotsford (1,641).

Like some cities in BC, overdose and drug poisoning calls have seen a steady climb since a public health emergency was called by the provincial government in 2016.

The yearly breakdown for PG looks like this:

  • 2016 – 362
  • 2017 – 461
  • 2018 – 594
  • 2019 – 626
  • 2020 – 999
  • 2021 – 1,307
  • 2022 – 1,466

Furthermore, Northern Health saw a 17% spike in overdose calls in 2022 – the largest year-over-year increase among all the health authorities in BC.

The next closest was Interior Health with a 9% increase. Last year, Northern Health posted 182 drug poisoning fatalities, with 84 of those occurring in Prince George – both record highs.

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