(With Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)
Across BC, medics attended 35,525 illicit overdose calls in 2021, a 31% spike when compared to 2020.
On average, paramedics responded to 97 overdose calls per day, surpassing the 2020 mark of 74.
Brian Twaites, who is a paramedic specialist with BC Emergency Health Services, says the public health emergency has taken a hard turn for the worse since the beginning of the pandemic.
““When we look at where the numbers were before the pandemic, we were almost plateauing and now with the pandemic, our numbers are just becoming astronomical, it’s pretty astounding actually.”
Every health region in BC saw a spike in these calls last year.
However, Northern Health only showed a 16% increase, the smallest out of all health authorities, and was only about half of the provincial average (31%).
There were 2,414 calls in Northern Health.
Interior Health responded to 5,417 calls, which was up by 29 percent.
Taking a closer look at the Cariboo, there were 157 overdose calls in Quesnel, which was actually down from 210 in 2020, but up substantially from previous years.
Williams Lake paramedics responded to 117 calls, up from 114 the previous year, while 100 Mile House saw an increase from just 10 in 2020 to 31 last year.
Twaites mentioned that while there is no “magic bullet” solution in turning the tide against overdose deaths and call volumes, he reminds anyone who continues to use substances to do so in a group setting.
“The most important thing that I can always stress is that if you are going to use recreational drugs is to do it carefully and with somebody else. If you in fact have an overdose, somebody else is there and they are awake and they can make the phone call to 9-1-1.”
“When you are dealing with an overdose, these patients are very close to death – it’s a matter of minutes to even seconds before they lapse into cardiac arrest. The intensity of a call for a paramedic on the street is quite high, you have to ventilate these people right away and get their oxygen levels back up because their brain cells are actively dying.”
The BC Coroners Service will unveil its final illicit drug numbers for 2021 in February.