WELLINGTON COUNTY – A paramedic’s job isn’t easy in the best of times, but during a pandemic it becomes all the more cumbersome, stressful and demanding.
“I’m very proud of the paramedics I work with,” said Stephen Dewar, chief of the Guelph Wellington Paramedic Services (GWPS).
“They’re doing a fantastic job, despite the high level of stress and despite all the demands and challenges … They continue to show professionalism and do a great job.”
Paramedic Services Week (May 24 to 30) is held annually to recognize the country’s 40,000-plus paramedics and communications officers. The theme this year is “Pandemic: Paramedics on the Front Line,” recognizing the role paramedics play as one of the first points of contact for the ill and injured.
The Paramedic Chiefs of Canada states paramedics are “proud professionals” who are “well positioned in their mobile role to make significant contributions to working toward protecting the health and well-being of the citizens they serve: you.”
Dewar said the week is important to pay tribute to “highly trained” paramedics and the wide-ranging services they provide.
“We don’t need the recognition for it, but it does give us a chance to … relay some of the risks paramedics deal with,” said Dewar.
GWPS employs about 90 full-time and 70 part-time paramedics, Dewar explained, noting this year the service will bring on 19 new part-timers, mostly new college graduates.
While frontline workers are receiving a lot of praise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and rightfully so, Dewar notes paramedics deal with infectious people all the time.
The difference with this virus, he noted, is that paramedics have to assume it could affect “everyone and everywhere.”
So, while 911 calls are screened for possible signs of a COVID-19 case, paramedics don’t take the chance – they gear up in masks, face shields and other PPE (personal protective equipment) for every call.
That takes more time, Dewar explained, and it also adds stress, as there’s always a chance the PPE could fail.
“That’s just one of the risks they take,” he said.
Dewar explained that during “normal” times, GWPS would offer in-person displays and tours during Paramedic Services Week, but that is not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The service is, however, offering a virtual event on May 28 from 10am to 12pm on Instagram that will include general information, an ambulance tour and questions and answers with some paramedics. Anyone interested is welcome at instagram.com/gwparamedic.