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Paramedics 'concerned' about protests blocking major routes

Last Updated Feb 13, 2020 at 12:55 pm PST

FILE - Anti-pipeline protesters block the intersection at Broadway and Cambie on Feb. 11, 2020. (Kelvin Gawley, NEWS 1130 photo)
Summary

Any extra time it takes for paramedics to do their job could potentially cost someone their life

Protesters have been respectful of paramedics

Vancouver Police have been helping escort ambulances when needed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With no end in sight to the ongoing protests involving those who say they support some of the hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation who are opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern BC, some are worried about the effects the demonstrations are having on day-to-day operations around the Lower Mainland.

Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C., says because there is no heads-up on where the protests are taking place, it’s adding stress to an already stressful job for paramedics.

“Generally, there are challenges we face every day with traffic and the patterns and whatnot, but when you enhance it with protests as we’re seeing right now, it provides more challenges in the sense that we have to find maybe alternate routes or be a lot more aware of where they are so we can either divert or adjust our route accordingly. We respect their right to protest, but there’s no doubt that these type of events cause extra stress and challenges for us.”

He hasn’t heard of any incidents where protesters have blocked first responders from getting through. “Although it’s been a little frustrating, I mean, we’ve been managing pretty well.”

Clifford explains when there are other major events like parades, everyone, including first responders are given advanced notice, but that hasn’t happened with these protests.

RELATED: Anti-pipeline demonstrators block Vancouver bridge after march winds through downtown

“We work around them, we have the routes, we have all that sort of stuff so there’s a lot of pre-planning that goes into it, although there are similar challenges, there are a lot easier because they’re predictable. When they’re unpredictable, you may not be able to choose a route so you may get caught up in a situation where you didn’t know that’s where they’d be, so that proves different challenges as well.”

Clifford wants everyone to realize, not just protesters, that any extra time it takes for paramedics to do their job — it could potentially cost someone their life.

“I don’t believe we’ve seen any direct delays that have affected patient outcomes, but that definitely could be a risk whenever you have challenges and potential delays. Definitely the busier things get, no matter if it’s an event like this or not, we definitely are seeing challenges at getting people to the hospital or getting to calls both in a safe and timely fashion and that’s our biggest job is getting out patients to the hospital and treating them to the highest level we can.”

He says from everything he has heard, protesters have been respectful of paramedics and have been, in some cases, moving aside to allow them through.

“I think, for the most part, [paramedics] have been using alternate routes and I’m not aware of anyone blocking an ambulance going to a hospital, or going to a call or trying to get through.”

Clifford adds Vancouver Police have been helping escort ambulances when needed if they’re faced with a protest closure.