In light of supply troubles and the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, volunteer first responder groups in the Shuswap have decided to stop responding to calls until the present crisis is at an end.
Both the North and South Shuswap First Responders groups have given public notice they are currently shut down.
Meanwhile, volunteer Shuswap road rescue groups say they will continue to respond as needed.
The Eagle Valley Rescue Society will continue to fulfill their primary mandate of responding to motor-vehicle accidents and rescues that require scaling an embankment. John Moore, the rescue unit’s chief, said they are also feeling the pinch when it comes to supplies.
Moore said the rescue society also assists BC Ambulance Service crews on some calls where CPR is required, but a limited supply of masks, gowns and face shields could put a stop to this. Moore said the gowns and face shields can be washed and reused if they are not damaged on the call, but the masks are single-use.
Moore stressed that everyone should stay home and off the highways in the midst of the current crisis.
Tim Alstad of the Salmon Arm Rescue Unit also expressed the importance of limiting travel to only necessary trips and practicing social distancing around others. Alstad said the Salmon Arm unit is still ready to respond to motor vehicle incidents that require extrication from wrecked cars; he said the unit has a small stockpile of masks and gloves as well as their regular protective equipment. As a social distancing measure, the unit has suspended regular meetings and training until they can reevaluate the risks posed by COVID-19.
In a notice to residents of CSRD Area C, the South Shuswap First Responders group outlines factors that went into their decision to shut down, including an inability to obtain the necessary personal protective equipment and product necessary for sanitizing equipment. Other issues include the closure of the facility they use for training which also leaves them unable to re-stock equipment.
“As volunteers, we are committed to the health and well-being of our community. We wouldn’t want to be an unknown carrier of the virus and then respond to a call and potentially infect those we are trying to help.”
The notice states the decision was very difficult, and was made respecting directives and advice from provincial and national health officials.
The South Shuswap First Responders are a group of trained volunteers who respond to medical emergencies. They serve the communities of Balmoral, Blind Bay, Carlin, Eagle Bay, Notch Hill, Skimikin, Sorrento, Sunnybrae and White Lake.
The first responder volunteers in the North Shuswap also complained of insufficient personal protective equipment and sanitization products as they announced the suspension of their service. They stated they want their community to be COVID-19 free, particularly because a large portion of the North Shuswap’s population are seniors.
“Our team will monitor the situation and follow the directives and advice of our provincial and national health officials,” said Kath Rowbotham the North Shuswap Responders chief coordinator.