Here is how paramedics are helping on the front lines during the pandemic
TIMMINS -- COVID-19 has changed the way we all go about our daily work and paramedics are using this week to highlight some of the ways their jobs are different and what patient care could look like post-pandemic.
From May 24 to 30, it is Paramedic Services Week in Canada, and in Timmins, Cochrane District Emergency Medical Services is putting the spotlight on the first responders who are assisting at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
There, paramedics are working alongside nurses and physicians.
Jessica Dionne recently celebrated a year on the job, but if you saw her at the testing centre, you might not realize that she's a paramedic as she's covered from head-to-toe in personal protective equipment.
"Oftentimes it's overlooked. Now, more than ever, we're using it on every call. It's in big demand," she said.
Her role there is to greet people as they come in for their appointments, ensure they have a mask to wear or provide them with one and ask them to sanitize their hands.
"It's been fun meeting new people and everybody kind of has their own story as to why they're here and everyone's been super pleasant and very thankful that we are here dressed up in full PPE," said Dionne.
There are about 100 paramedics working in the Cochrane District. They've also been swabbing people in their homes who can't get out for appointments.
"In northern Ontario, all the services that are offered in southern Ontario aren't necessarily there. So, the better we can pool our resources and work closer together in collaboration, the better off our patients are," said Jean Carriere, director of Cochrane Emergency Services.
Doctor Larry Malo, a family physician who also works at the Timmins testing centre, says it's great to have paramedics, nurses and other physicians all working together. He says around 30 people a day are tested at the centre, thanks to the efficient system that's in place.
"This isn't an assessment clinic for other problems," said Dr. Malo. "Basically, we're looking at, talking about relevant symptoms and undertaking the swab. We're not examining patients really."
Looking to the future, officials know there will be even more changes in store, but they think there are more opportunities for paramedics to help ease demands on the health care system.
"It may mean that we start treating patients in home more and not necessarily bringing them to (emergency). That we work just as close with our family health teams and ensure that our elderly population doesn't have to go into a centre and we bring them the care that they need with our community paramedic program," described Carriere.
The theme for Paramedic Services Week is Pandemic: Paramedics on the Front Line and they say the best way you can help them is to follow all the recommended safety measures to ensure fewer calls that could put them and the community at greater risk.