Cornwall-SDG EMS hiring to meet projected wave of pandemic calls; save 911 for real emergencies

(Newswatch Group/File)

SD&G – The head of Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services says they will be hiring more paramedics shortly to meet the anticipated demand of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are preparing for an increase in call volume over the next few weeks to months,” Bill Lister told reporters Friday afternoon.

He also urged people to only call 911 for real emergencies like a heart attack or stroke. This is similar to the measures put in place during the 2018 municipal strike.

Lister says call volumes are actually down right now – about 28 to 41 calls per day since March 12 – partly because hospitals have stopped elective surgeries and doctors are not taking non-essential appointments, leading to fewer ambulance transport calls.

The long term average is about 49 calls per day.

Lister is projecting, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, we could “see upwards of around 60 calls per day. That’s what we’re planning on, when we reach the peak in this pandemic,” he told Cornwall Newswatch.

Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services has 66 full-time and around 54 part-time paramedics. Lister says they are going to be hiring another 12-20 part-time paramedics in short order in anticipation of the projected uptick in calls.

As for the health of the paramedics on staff now, Lister says there are some showing flu-like symptoms. “We’ve have a few medics tested (for COVID-19) but we don’t have the results back yet. The medics that aren’t at work have mild symptoms like sore throat, runny rose, that type of thing. We have nobody severely ill that we’re able to attribute directly to COVID-19,” he told Newswatch.

As for how the public should handle calling 911, the chief says people should only call “when they really need one (an ambulance)”.

In addition to the symptoms of heart attack or stroke, Lister says you should call if it feels “like you ran a marathon just getting up off the couch.”

“We’re trying to save the resources for the sickest people,” he said.

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