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Paramedics prepare for dramatic rise in call volumes

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By Nick Seebruch
Paramedics prepare for dramatic rise in call volumes
The rear view of a Cornwall SD&G Ambulance (Ali Gearey/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – In a conference call with the media on Friday, April 3, Cornwall-SD&G Paramedic Chief Bill Lister said that his service was preparing for a dramatic rise in call volumes due to COVID-19.

“We are expecting call volume to climb dramatically in the next few weeks and months,” said  Lister. “We are preparing to meet that demand, but we need the support, understanding, and patience of residents.”

Lister called on the community to help support the paramedic service by continuing to do what they can to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.

Lister explained that thanks to stay at home orders, cancellation of some surgeries, and other measures, that the service was experiencing a lower than average call volume for this time of year. He said that typically, his service sees around 49 calls a day at this time of year, but that right now, it was closer to 20. Lister went on to say that he anticipated call volumes to rise into the 60s as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the region.

“The expectation is that we could see upwards of 60 calls per-day,” he said. “That’s what we are expecting to see at the peak.”

To help cope with the anticipated influx of calls, Lister says that he plans to put 14 ambulances on the road at peak times, in addition to hiring an additional 12 to 20 part-time paramedics to supplement the 66 full-time and 54 part-time paramedics already on the job.

The Cornwall-SD&G Paramedic Service also provided the following advice for those experiencing an emergency or flu-like symptoms.

Residents should only call 911 when they…

  • may be having a heart attack or stroke,
  • have been unconscious, or
  • are having severe, unexplained shortness of breath.

Calls to 911 about flu symptoms will likely not require a hospital visit.

Alternatives to calling 911 include…

  • calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
  • travelling for medical care by taxi or bus, or calling a friend for a ride
  • using the online self-assessment tool for COVID-19 symptoms

On top of their normal duties, the Cornwall-SD&G Paramedic Service is also providing at home COVID-19 testing in partnership with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

READ MORE: Paramedics to begin at home COVID-19 testing

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