Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

Paramedics in personal protective equipment move a patient from an ambulance into Royal Columbian Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Data from BC Emergency Health Services said it had tracked an 80-per-cent increase in calls from paramedics, dispatchers and other staff to its critical-incident stress program

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s paramedics sought mental-health support in April at almost twice the rate of the previous year, a spike in calls for help that reflects the heightened stress of a job that has required emergency responders to assume their patients have COVID-19.

Data from BC Emergency Health Services, an agency that manages paramedic operations, said it had tracked an 80-per-cent increase in calls from paramedics, dispatchers and other staff to its critical-incident stress program, from 130 calls last April to 235 calls in the same month this year. The organization said much of this increase was the result of outreach, and most cases are linked to the pandemic.

The agency said 142 calls have come in May, which is more consistent with a monthly average of about 135.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement that B.C. Emergency Health Services is monitoring the increase in the use of the critical incident stress program closely.

“We will work to ensure all paramedics have access to the support they need and encourage paramedics and all members of our province’s health care team to use these services at their disposal and reach out for help when they need it,” he said.

The Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., the union for the province’s 4,500 to 5,000 paramedics, released data that confirm the increase in requests for counselling.

Vancouver-region paramedic Dave Deines, who is also the president of the Paramedic Association of Canada, says paramedics and their dispatchers, in B.C. and elsewhere, face increased stress, with no end in sight.

He said paramedics have to wear personal protective gear – which is hot and impedes normal breathing – for most of a shift.

"In addition, it dramatically reduces the ability to communicate with a patient,” he says. Only some of the gear can be removed and put back on.

“But the reality in Vancouver is the call volume is so high that, on busy days, you literally put it on at the beginning of the shift and it stays on for the majority of the shift unless you need something to drink or something like that.”

Story continues below advertisement

The critical-incident stress program, launched in 2015, consists of co-ordinators and 130 paramedics and dispatchers who volunteer to support members who need help, and can refer members to a trauma counselor or psychologist.

Lindsay Kellosalmi, mental-health and wellness co-ordinator for the ambulance paramedics organization, said the sharp increase in need is unusual.

She said paramedics have unprecedented challenges, including concerns about bringing the virus home, and adapting to new treatments for patients, such as airway procedures.

Dispatchers may not be on the scene of incidents, but she said they experience stress from an increasing number of calls from members of the public who fear they have been exposed to the virus.

“They also have the stress of sending their [paramedic] colleagues into some unknown situations,” she said.

She said the long-term impact is unclear.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Deines said he has no cross-Canada data, noting that counselling is measured differently in different places, but the West Coast situation is consistent with what he has heard anecdotally.

Mr. Deines said the pandemic has been unprecedented in his 25-year career as a paramedic.

Nationally, for paramedics, Mr. Deines said the priority now is getting through the pandemic. However, he said he is interested in legislation that would facilitate workers’ compensation benefits by assuming that any injury during a paramedic’s work in the pandemic, whether it is physical or mental, is COVID-19-related and the worker should be eligible for enhanced mental-health and wellness treatment and access to benefits.

As for the future, he said he expects a consistent suspicion of influenza-like illnesses.

"In terms of COVID specifically, nobody knows what’s really going to happen,” he said.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies