B.C. paramedics brace for more hot weather

Temperatures in parts of B.C.’s Interior are forecast to be close to 40 degrees this week, just weeks after the province sweltered through a record-breaking heat wave.

According to Environment Canada, Kamloops is expected to reach 38 degrees on Tuesday, and highs of 37 are predicted for Kelowna.

On Saturday, meteorologist Doug Lundquist told CTV News Environment Canada was “close to issuing another heat warning” for some areas. On Sunday, the weather agency did issue heat warnings for the Fraser Canyon, Cariboo, 100 Mile and South Thompson regions.

“I want to stress it’s nothing like what we saw in June, but my concern is that it’s ongoing,” Lundquist said.

Temperatures across Metro Vancouver will also be a few degrees above the seasonal average this week.

According to BC Emergency Health Services, June 28 saw a record high for 911 calls, with paramedics responding to 1,975 medical emergencies. Meanwhile, 911 dispatchers have been receiving more than 3,000 calls a day, which is more than double the usual.

Numbers from BCEHS show that – over the weekend of the heat wave in late June – paramedics responded to 187 calls for heat exhaustion and 52 calls for heat stroke.

“That weekend was incredible from two perspectives: The pressure on paramedics and dispatchers from the incredibly high number of extra calls that they had, but also working in that heat,” said Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of B.C.

Since then, call volumes have subsided, but are still around 25 per cent higher than average, according to Clifford, who said low staffing levels and fatigue are still major issues.

On Saturday night, Clifford says, 20 ambulance vehicles in the Greater Vancouver area were out of service.

“That represents around 20 per cent of our ambulances not staffed and that’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen,” he said. “We’ve seen peaks of 30 per cent.”

When asked if he was concerned about paramedics through the summer, Clifford said he was “absolutely worried” about patients, but said the union has been working with the province to improve staffing levels moving forward.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Allison Hurst