By: Jace Koblun
The theme for Paramedic Services Week 2021 is Paramedic as Educator – Citizen Ready and demonstrates the important role that paramedics play as educators to the public. The Six Nations Paramedic Service has been working extra hard during the last 14 months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the community safe.
“Paramedics as educators means we encourage the community to understand how important it is to ‘help us help them,’” said Six Nations Paramedic Services Supervisor Derek Wharrie. “Right from the beginning, making that 911 call, it’s important to be able to describe symptoms, give us a complete home address, phone number, and other information that will help our team get to you faster.”
Some other items that help the team include keeping detailed information of any medical history, medications and the health card of household members nearby and in an easy-to-reach place in your house so paramedics can start work as soon as they get there.
“If the family could have a list of medications and health card available as well as a history of medical concerns that helps a lot,” said Wharrie. “As educators, it helps us fill in the pieces. We are also reinitiating a project called ‘Vial of Life.’ We will be able to provide a small medication vial for you to put all that information inside and put it in your freezer, or on top of your fridge, so the information can be easily found in an emergency.”
Paramedics and first responders understand that during an emergency a community member can feel overwhelmed and be too stressed to think of all this information on the spot. So Wharrie said it is very helpful to have this information prepared before a life-threatening emergency strikes.
“What makes a huge difference is being ready for us,” he said, adding that the Six Nations Paramedic Service has 43 active front-line paramedics. The team has also been in charge of managing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the community and has performed more than 3,500 vaccinations since beginning the rollout in February.
“COVID-19 is definitely a big hurdle for us as policies and protocols change almost on the daily. We have to navigate these waters ensuring that we’re using research-based information to ensure not only the safety of our paramedics but also the community’s safety. That’s been the biggest challenge, things change on a near daily basis.”
Wharrie said you will notice paramedics in almost full Personal Protective Equipment; gowns, gloves, masks, respirators or shields as well and safety glasses on all of their calls. “It’s been a big hurdle to navigate not only the team’s comfort level but also being able to hear people properly and communicate effectively with one another and a patient.”
Over the past year, the service has gotten a community paramedic program up and running which while very challenging, has allowed the service to do in-home remote patient monitoring.
“It allows us to keep an eye on high-risk patients from a distance. And we can tell how they’re trending — are they getting sicker or better? It allows us to be more proactive rather than reactive like with a regular 911 call.”
Wharrie said he would like to thank every member of the Six Nation Paramedic Services team for all of their hard work over the last 14 months.
“I would thank them for all their sacrifices and also for the professionalism they’ve shown through the continuous changes, and hurdles that they’ve faced maintaining their regular workload and adding COVID-19 related challenges,” he said, adding that the mental health and safety of the team is also utmost importance.
“We’ve identified that staff are tired with the increased workload, and added stresses from home. It all adds up. The last thing we want to do is forget our own mental health. The team is a close-knit family and can identify when somebody is running a little low, and are able to help them on the front line, and then management has support in place if needed.
“The bottom line is the paramedic service is very proud of where we’ve been and where we’re going. The Six Nations community should be proud and thank them for the support that they’ve shown us to date. We look forward to the continued community collaboration along with all of our services in the future.”
Paramedic Services Week runs from May 23 to May 29.