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B.C. special response unit staying in Fort St. James as emergency calls surge amid COVID-19

Emergency Health Services continuing another four-day deployment
BCEHS Major Incident Rapid Response Team
BC Emergency Health Services Major Incident Rapid Response Team. (via BCEHS)

Since the start of December, there have been 100 medical emergency calls in the Fort St. James/Nak'azdli Whut'en area, many are related to COVID-19.

That's according to BC Emergency Health Services as it deployed a second unit of its Major Incident Rapid Response Team on Saturday (Dec. 12) to the northern B.C. community as a result of the increase.

New crew members will remain on the ground in the district another four days to assist local paramedics as 45 more medical emergency calls related to COVID-19 and 56 patient transfers have taken place since Dec. 1.

Today (Dec. 14) is officially day six of the unit's overall deployment to the region, to which the new mission will formally end Dec. 16.

"In the last 24 hours, new team members and local paramedics have already responded to several COVID calls," said BCEHS spokesperson Shannon Miller to PrinceGeorgeMatters this afternoon.

"Halfway through the month, paramedics have responded to a call volume equal to a full month. It’s usual to have 1-2 transfers a day; they are responding to 4-5 a day with patients requiring transfer to higher levels of care hospitals."

On Dec. 9, Miller confirmed 40 infections were found within the community and its immediate surrounding areas.

The major incident team's initial deployment was a response to 33 medical emergency calls in a six-day period.

The BCEHS says during November, Fort St. James paramedics responded to its highest call volume for the entire year with 95 9-1-1 calls in the community, well above the monthly average of 50 to 60 calls.

Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation has been in a two-week 'shut-down' since Dec. 4, meaning it's not letting anyone in or out of the community as a way to help curb any further spread of COVID-19.

Chief Aileen Prince is asking members to limit their movement to the following:

  • Don't spend more than 15 minutes in one area and wear a mask at all times
  • Consistent hand sanitization
  • When out shopping, don't stop to visit in the aisles
  • Designate one person from your household to do the shopping and running of errands
  • Wash your hands when you return home

"We are asking that you stay within your Bubble group over the holiday's," the Nation says in a social media post.

"Plan safe activities for yourself and your family inside or outside your homes, but stick to your safe bubble."

Between Nov. 12 and 25, residents may have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 at either the Key Resource Centre or the Cold Weather Shelter, both of which are under an outbreak declaration by Northern Health.

The authority has also detected the virus at three schools within the community since students returned to the classroom in September:

  • Fort St. James Secondary (SD91) - Dec. 1, 2020; Nov. 19-20, 20-26, 30, 2020
  • David Hoy Elementary (SD91) - Dec. 1, 2020; Nov. 25-26, 30 2020; Sept. 17-18, 2020
  • Nak’albun Elementary (Independent) - Nov. 22-25, 2020; Sept. 16-18, 2020

The BCEHS Major Incident Rapid Response Team consists of two Critical Care Paramedics, one Advanced Care Paramedic and a Primary Care Paramedic.

Critical Care Paramedics are the highest level of paramedic care with a focus on air medical response.