The entity that represents paramedics and emergency dispatchers in British Columbia is reminding the public that they should still go to the hospital if they have an actual emergency that requires urgent attention.
Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of BC and Emergency Dispatchers of BC, says ambulance paramedics have seen an increasing number of people with a genuine non-coronavirus emergency refusing to be transported to the hospital for fear of being infected by COVID-19.
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While there are reports of increases in coronavirus-related visits to hospital emergency rooms, people in need of hospital-level treatment for non-coronavirus ailments should still follow paramedic recommendations of getting the required examination and care they need in a hospital setting.
“Obviously, if someone requires hospitalization, ambulance paramedics are highly trained and ensure that people get the right care and transport, as required,” said Clifford.
“Like all frontline workers, our employer has provided guidelines and protocols to ensure safety, reduce exposure, and prevent transmission of COVID-19, including doing the initial assessment in the doorway while standing a minimum of 6 feet away, along with using the proper protective equipment.”
He adds that dispatchers have noticed a decrease in other types of calls, possibly because more people are staying home to practice physical distancing and self-isolation. This includes fewer calls about car accidents, falls, assaults, and workplace accidents.
But he also notes it is possible that the lower number of calls to 911 for non-coronavirus concerns could be because people do not want to be exposed to COVID-19 at the hospital.
“Ambulance paramedics urge British Columbians not to hesitate to call 911 in a true emergency, as first-responders and healthcare workers have put strict measures in place to reduce exposure to the virus,” he added.
At the same time, there has been a surge in coronavirus-related calls to 911. In fact, BC paramedics estimate that 75% of calls to the emergency ambulance dispatch are now related to suspicions of COVID-19 or other influenza-type symptoms.
“We understand the community may be scared, but we’ve observed some people are calling 911 seeking a COVID-19 evaluation from ambulance dispatchers and paramedics when emergency care or hospitalization are not required,” said Clifford. “This can tie-up dispatchers and ambulance crews during an unprecedented time in history and potentially delay more serious calls.”
Anyone who believes they have COVID-19 should self-isolate and call 811 or their doctor.
If there is an emergency that may require immediate COVID-19 assessment and hospitalization, such as severe and/or life-threatening symptoms of the coronavirus, he says to call 911.
The provincial government has also created an online self-assessment tool, which is also found on its free COVID-19 app available on both iOS and Android.