May 24-30 marks Paramedic Services Week, an annual recognition of paramedics across Canada. This year’s theme is Pandemic: Paramedics on the Front Line—a timely tribute to the work of first responders who, during an average year in B.C., respond to approximately half a million calls to 9-1-1 that require ambulance dispatch.

“Being an ambulance paramedic is already one of the most stressful jobs in the world, and now we face additional stressors that have been brought upon by the pandemic,” said Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873) President Troy Clifford.

“During this period, ambulance paramedics are playing an integral role on the front line. This means we are often the first medical professionals to tend to COVID-related or suspected cases. In caring for our patients, we must suppress our own fears of exposure and transmission. Also, government and public health officials have mandated that we put on protective gear now for all emergency calls. Putting on protective equipment takes time, which adds greater stress to our crews because it is our instinct to begin medical treatment immediately.”

In conjunction with Paramedic Services Week, CUPE 873 has released a video featuring a statement by Clifford and testimonials from B.C. government officials honouring the work of ambulance paramedics. Health Minister Adrian Dix, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy, Labour Minister Harry Bains, and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry all praise the critical service that paramedics provide every day—and especially during the pandemic.

“Since the start of COVID-19, there has been an exponential increase in ambulance paramedics seeking the use of mental health supports available to us. We are actively encouraging our members to seek timely support when they need it, in order to take care of themselves and prevent a cascade of personal and professional impacts,” said Clifford.

“We are grateful that the public has helped British Columbia keep this pandemic at controllable levels so far. To that end, we must continue to hold the line on social distancing. B.C.’s situation is better than most, but the risk is far from over.”

CUPE 873’s approximately 4,500 members include 9-1-1 medical dispatchers, paramedic crews on the ground, community paramedics, and air ambulance teams who transfer adults and infants in critical condition.