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Kamloops firefighters respond to medical calls amid paramedic shortfalls

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As the healthcare system in Kamloops, British Columbia, struggles due to being unable to fill paramedic positions, it has fallen upon the Fire and Rescue service to fill the void.

The city of around 100,000 people is scrambling to find staff to fill the shortfall in paramedics, and equally struggling to find staff from other departments to assist on an ‘over-time’ basis.

As reported by Radio NL, President of the Ambulance Paramedics Association of BC Troy Clifford told the program Newsday last week, there are more than 300 vacant shifts this month alone. Clifford told the news outlet,

“We are making every effort to recruit for open positions, both through local engagement in communities across the province and through our nationwide recruitment campaign.”

As a result, local firefighters have been called upon to assist in responding to medical emergency calls, and according to sources, the fire service is currently fielding and responding to 56 percent more calls compared to last year.

Ryan Cail, Acting Fire Chief, said,

“There is no doubt, I think, that everybody is aware that call volume has gone up significantly. We’ve even surpassed the covid numbers as well.”

“Everything from the low acuity calls, the lift assists, the routines, all the way up to the purple and red calls, which we would consider like a cardiac arrest or the imminent life-threatening ones for sure,” Cail added.

While emergency services rally together to cover the increase in calls amid staff shortages, there are concerns over budget restrictions, over-time constraints, and the requirement for increased mental health support for already over-worked health care and emergency services workers.

Due to the understaffing and the increased emergency calls, Chief Cail said that low acuity calls are not being responded to unless intel indicates a more urgent response is required.

“We’re going to work with them. We communicate with them. We know they’re working hard to put some remedies in place so that we can move forward and take care of the good people of Kamloops,” Cail said.

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