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New Year's Day marks busiest day ever for BC paramedics

Last Updated Jan 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm PDT

File photo. (Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)
Summary

Ambulance service blames a combination of winter weather and the opioid crisis

There were more than 1,800 calls on December 31st, 2016 province-wide

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – BC Emergency Health Services says January 1st had the highest number of events ever recorded by BC Ambulance.

In total, there were 1,833 calls for help on New Year’s Day and paramedics say the month as a whole was extremely challenging for first responders for a couple of reasons.

Linda Lupini with BC Health Services says the deadly drug overdose epidemic is taxing members. “Those are all calls we have to respond to very, very quickly. Those are life and death situations. And then we’ve got some of the impact of the weather in the last month where the number of falls, in general, has gone up over 50 per cent. We’ve experienced almost 800 falls in the last while. This is really putting pressure on paramedics”

She explains when they have an increased call volume they will always respond to the most life-threatening reports first. “But that of course impacts patients that we know are not in a life-threatening situation and unfortunately in some cases they are going to have to wait a little longer for an ambulance.”

Lupini explains there is a difference in terms of when paramedics will or won’t respond right away.

“It could be a situation where you’ve fallen but you’ve not necessarily fallen and injured a part of your body that could have a longer term impact or a life-threatening impact. Certainly, we’ve had people with a leg or arm injury or something that is uncomfortable and we want to get there quickly. But we know through dispatch and we also have emergency physicians online that help make some of those decisions if necessary as to how critical that call is or how much danger that patient is in of having a long-term effect. We assess it that way and if we feel that you will be uncomfortable and we’ll try to get there as quickly as we can — we may have to prioritize another life-threatening call over that kind of call.”

She says this appears to be happening often that the agency is fielding many high-priority calls at the same time. “I want to say it’s a perfect storm in not a great way which is the opioid crisis, the weather, the holiday period and just the general demographics. We did a study last year and it was project that we would see a six per cent increase year-over-year that was not taking into account like the opioid crisis. It certainly looks like over this last year that those projections are accurate because we have an over six per cent increase from 2015 to 2016 just in general.”

 

Lupini feels there is a solution, but it lies within increased funding for resources. “And it’s to continually triage and continually prioritize because the most important thing is to make sure that people aren’t permanently injured, disable or affected by an injury or an illness and to save lives.”