How the Omicron variant is impacting BC's emergency services

Jan 11 2022, 7:49 pm

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has suggested that nearly everyone in the province would get Omicron — and BC’s emergency responders aren’t immune to this reality.

Henry has previously urged organizations to develop contingency plans for when staff shortages occur due to people being sick at home with COVID-19.

This has already come into play for some BC emergency services, with some police detachments, and other BC emergency responders, being impacted by a high number of cases.

Paramedics

BC’s paramedics have been hit with job shortages, along with high levels of stress and burnout for years.

When the pandemic began, however, resources became even more scarce.

Just this past weekend, according to the Ambulance and Paramedics of BC (APBC), 40-50 ambulances were out of service in the Lower Mainland, leaving about 70-80 on the road. Typically, there would be closer to 120. This is because of the Omicron variant.

In June of last year, APBC said they were in dire need of more resources.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services

“Like most everyone in BC, Omicron is definitely infecting some of our staff,” Karen Fry told Daily Hive.

Fry is the Fire Chief and General Manager of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

“We don’t have the exact numbers, but we have approximately 16% of our operations staffing working to backfill absences.”

Fry adds that VFRS is busier than ever, and that staff are doing an amazing job under difficult conditions.

VPD

The Vancouver Police Department employs a lot of staff, and the VPD told Daily Hive that they don’t have any worries about Omicron and its potential impact on the department.

“We do not currently have concerns with staffing levels or our ability to provide service to the community. We’re taking every precaution to avoid the spread of COVID in the workplace and in the community,” said VPD Constable Tania Visintin.

“We’re a large organization, and we have a number of options to maintain service levels and public safety.”

RCMP

In a conversation with Daily Hive, Surrey RCMP revealed that 42 members of staff were hit with COVID-19. While that number might seem worrying, they had contingency plans in place.

They also made it clear that the cases did not impact their ability to respond to community safety concerns.

The other piece of good news is that, as of last week, the majority of those employees who got hit with COVID were just about ready to get back to work.

“We’ve actually been experiencing the pandemic now for two years; it has given us a lot of experience in dealing with various challenges that have been presented by COVID,” said Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko.

She added that they’ve been planning for this scenario since the pandemic began in March 2020. So far, most RCMP jurisdictions, including the Burnaby RCMP detachment, are still operating normally, and haven’t had services impacted by Omicron.

Nurses

All of this news doesn’t take into account how BC’s nurses might be impacted by the Omicron variant. On Christmas Eve, the BC Nurse’s Union called for enhanced measures to help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.

Daily Hive has reached out to the BCNU for more information.

With files from Megan Devlin

Amir AliAmir Ali

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