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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Paramedics Balance COVID-19 and Trauma Season

Grey Bruce | by Claire McCormack  

Annual week recognizing paramedics highlights what they're up against.

If you see a paramedic out and about this week, consider giving them a wave or a smile.

They have a dedicated week of recognition that comes around each year, but this year, the work they do is top of mind for many.

Grey County Paramedic Superintendent Joe Draper says, as frontline workers during COVID-19, paramedics have continuously been improving their procedures and best practices when taking protective measures against the virus.

"The PPE (personal protective equipment) we're using has changed over the last couple of months and I think we seem to have nailed down the proper way to treat people medically and how to keep ourselves safe," says Draper.

Draper says paramedics are wearing PPE on every call at this point, "We seem to be maintaining and holding our own at the moment, we've had quite a bit of donations from both citizens and from companies that have really helped bolster our stocks."

"As of right now, we seem to be doing okay but obviously we don't know how long this is going to last," says Draper.

He says what level of PPE they wear depends on whether a patient 'screens' positive or negative for the virus. Patients are screened with questions when they call 911 and then are re-screened when paramedics arrive. Paramedics are also able to test a person for COVID-19 if that person can't get to a testing centre.

Draper notes, on a normal year, they'd have a luncheon during Paramedic Services Week where cardiac arrest survivors are invited to spend time with the paramedics who responded to the call.

Paramedics have been doing many things differently due to COVID-19, and Draper doubts things will go back to how they were before the pandemic, "There will absolutely be changes made that last for years, like after SARS," says Draper noting "They took pieces of equipment that we would re-use and made everything disposable. That was one of the big changes after SARS."

Paramedic Services Week is going to wrap up with a Facebook live virtual tour of an ambulance at 11 a.m. Friday (May 29)

Draper says if you want to thank a paramedic this week, there are a few things you can do, "If you see us out in the public and say 'Hi,' that's great," he adds keeping up with physical distancing and hand washing would be greatly appreciated.

He notes calls have been down because fewer people are out doing things, but he says summer activities mean more calls for EMS, "Because we're technically into trauma season, we don't want to add that on top of the COVID stuff, so if everyone could just do their part by being safe." 

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