A medic said he was “shocked and appalled” by what he saw at work during the BC heatwave.
“It was a disaster,” the medic, who did not want to be identified, wrote to Global News about his experience at the front on Sunday and Monday.
Heat wave strains BC emergency services
“I responded to calls for hours after they originally called for help. They were still awake and breathing when they dialed 911. When I arrived I found patients who had been in cardiac arrest for so long that there was no chance of survival. We tried anyway.
“I answered several patients in nursing homes who needed paramedics. I stopped to check on the other patients at the facility and found them dead. I was unable to perform CPR on these patients because there were others who were still alive and needed help. “
Heat wave overwhelms emergency services
Increase in heat-related deaths and calls to BC emergency services strain
The paramedic remembered arriving at another location and finding firefighters loading someone who was severely hyperthermic and hypoxic into a taxi.
“They had given up hope that we would ever get there,” he wrote.
The paramedic said the workload was unprecedented.
“We had consistently over 250 calls to the GVRD, which still waited at times for over 18 hours to be assigned an ambulance. The previous record was in 2011 during the Stanley Cup riots with 96 calls held. “
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Potential heat-related deaths increase during the BC heat wave
On Wednesday, the BC Coroners Service said the province had recorded at least 486 sudden, unexplained deaths since Friday – a 195 percent increase over the number of deaths BC would normally experience over the same period.
“While it’s too early to be certain how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is believed that the significant increase in reported deaths was due to the extreme weather that BC experienced,” said Chief Coroner Lisa LaPointe .
First responders said they couldn’t keep up with the massive number of people calling for help in the past few days.
Vancouver police said Wednesday that they had responded to 98 sudden deaths since Friday, including 53 on Tuesday. Two thirds of the victims were 70 years or older, the police said.
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One person lost in front of Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5 their life. A desperate family had taken the person to the fire station after waiting two hours for an ambulance that never came.
“The person was in cardiac arrest,” said Karen Fry, chief of fire in Vancouver. “Our chief officers performed CPR on this patient and unfortunately they succumbed to their injuries.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the health system is under severe pressure amid COVID-19, the overdose crisis and now a heat wave.
“Every ambulance system is tested up to such a record day,” said Dix. “It’s deep and challenging.”
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Terry Lake, CEO of the BC Care Providers Association, noted the heat wave was particularly challenging for seniors and his organization has been sounding the alarm since Friday.
“We knew it was coming,” he said. “I think we could have been better prepared. But, as always, we should learn from it. “
The Department of Health says it will advertise more than 400 positions in July to fill within BC’s emergency health services.
Cooler temperatures are expected for most of BC on Wednesday and the rest of the week.
–With files from Amy Judd and Julia Foy
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