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'Above and beyond': York Region celebrates its paramedics

Paramedic Services Week spotlighting 'faces of paramedicine'
2022 05 26 - Commntiy paramedicine - JQ
York Region is celebrating Paramedic Services Week.

York Region Paramedic Services Chief Chris Spearen joined the service 28 years ago, coming from a family of first responders.

For him, the appeal is being able to contribute to your community.

“I grew up north in smaller communities, and being a paramedic there meant being an integral part of the community,” he said. “As I moved into the bigger centres, that was really at the heart of it. Every day, you’re meeting somebody (facing) the worst day of their life. But at the same time, you’re able there to sort of intervene in that and try and have the most positive outcome you can.” 

York Region and paramedic services across the country are celebrating National Paramedic Services Week, which runs May 22 to 28. This year’s theme is Faces of Paramedicine, highlighting frontline responders and the many in support roles within paramedic services.

“From patient care, fleet management, and logistics to operational planning, scheduling and administration, York Region Paramedic Services work to ensure residents are provided with the highest quality of care in their greatest time of need,” York Region chairman Wayne Emmerson said in a news release. “As we have seen over the last two years, York Region Paramedics have been essential to the region’s frontline COVID-19 response, often putting themselves and their families at risk to support the health and safety of our communities.”

Spearen said it is important to understand the team behind the frontline responders, such as the logistics and community paramedics.

“It’s truly a team effort in the end product you see,” he said. “You have a whole bunch of people working in collaboration behind the scenes to make it possible.”

He added that community paramedics have been taking on an “integral,” different role with the pandemic, doing home visits and helping staff vaccination clinics. He said the pandemic has resulted in the service taking on a more integrated role in the health-care system as a whole.

"It's going to put some increased responsibility and role on paramedics moving forward,” he said.

But the pandemic has also added to the occupational stressors paramedics go through. In January, the local York Region paramedic union called for better support for burned-out frontline workers. 

Spearen said paramedics have an increased risk of occupational stress injuries, and the pandemic worsened that. But he said that the York Region benefit package does have psychological care, and peer support is available.

“We have our own well-being team,” he said. “Making sure once someone has been off work, being able to get them back to the workplace as quickly as effectively as possible and making sure they're healthy as well." 

As the regional population increases, the region expects call volumes to increase 119 per cent between 2021 to 2031 to more than 160,000 calls. 

Spearen said Paramedic Services Week is a great chance to promote the profession and give due recognition to every part of the service.

“It’s nice to be able to recognize the expertise, the passion, the devotion that the paramedics and all our service members had had every year, but especially the past couple of years. Everybody is really going above and beyond.”

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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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