The provincial ambulance service sent two paramedics to Terrace today to help its local hard-pressed crews deal with a continued high number of COVID-19 patients.
An advanced care paramedic and a primary care paramedic from a central office in Victoria are due to be in town until March 8.
“This specially trained rapid response team will provide support to the community and our local paramedic crews,” said Shannon Miller from BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), the provincial agency responsible for the ambulance service indicated.
This would only be the third time help has been sent to a location in the north in response to a surge in COVID cases — the first time was to Fort St. James last December and the second time was to Williams Lake in January.
The response comes as the Terrace (LHA) Local Health Area and other parts of the northwest have been registering high numbers of COVID-19 cases in relation to their populations and in comparison to other parts of the province.
Northern Health, which asked for help from the ambulance service, confirmed that COVID hospitalizations and transfers have increased.
“We are grateful for the BCEHS support to manage patient transport needs in the area, whether for COVID-positive or other patients, both within the community and for facility-to-facility transfers,” said Northern Health official Eryn Collins.
The Terrace ambulance station has seven ambulances, two of which were added last year in case they were needed to deal with a COVID surge. At the time, the emergency health services commission said any increase due to COVID-19 would be handled by existing crews as the local station has a mixture of full time and part time crews who could be called upon to work more hours.
In the last 12 months, Terrace has averaged about 180 patient transfers a month and in the last two months, the patient transfer volume has been more than 200, said Miller.
In addition to patient transfers in and out of Terrace, patient transfers are occurring to and from the communities of Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Smithers.
“The response team will be supporting the local paramedic crews with patient transfers between hospitals, the bulk of which are lateral transfers. It means patients are in stable condition and are not being transferred to a higher level of care,” said Miller.
Given the distances in the region, one paramedic shift can often only accommodate two regional transfers in a 12-hour period so having extra paramedics with ease the workloads of local crews, she added.