'Our new reality': BC Paramedics Union outlines dangers within the job

The BC Ambulance Paramedics union is highlighting a number of risks those in uniform face on a daily basis. This comes after first responder safety was the subject of an introduced bill last week. As Victoria Femia reports, their training is in the spotlight when it comes to how they can protect themselves.

The BC Ambulance Paramedics Union is highlighting a number of risks that members face on a daily basis, after first responder safety was the subject of a bill introduced in parliament last week.

According to the APBC attacks against those in uniform have spiked over the last few years.

“It does seem to have escalated since COVID I guess we can’t really say we’re post-COVID because we seem to be going in and out of it,” said Corey Froese, CUPE 873 Ambulance Paramedics of BC Provincial Safety Director.

“There’s been a marked difference between 2019 and now, of the way escalation of violence has been impacting not only all uniforms in the country but specifically paramedics in BC as well.”

Through a survey with paramedics in the province, Corey Froese identified what types of attacks, among gunfire, were most common against paramedics in the last five years, many of which he witnessed himself.

“I had everything from biting, pushing, threats, sexual assaults, punches…every one of our paramedics has had some sort of encounter,” said Froese.

“Needle sticks sometimes happen, I’ve actually been in a situation while on a call where we were attacked with a needle.”

Last week Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty introduced a private member bill in parliament that, if passed, would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to make assaults against healthcare workers and first responders an aggravating circumstance during sentencing.

“We have to do all we can to protect the people we serve. We really try hard as paramedics to identify that we’re here to help,” said Clifford.

Risk assessment when responding to a call is part of paramedic training, however, self-defence is not, and according to Froese there is a conversation to be had about what types of training or tools could be a possibility when it comes to paramedics’ safety

“Maybe we need to start looking at things like stab vests, maybe we need to start wearing body cameras. Ten years ago I would have laughed and said that was ridiculous. Today I question whether or not this is our new reality,” said Froese.

“I don’t know how far this is going to go but we need to come up with strategies, we need appropriate training we need to find de-escalation training that’s effective that works in the real world.”

In the last six months alone, eight police officers have been killed on the job across the country. That includes B.C., Ontario, and most recently in Edmonton.

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