After two years of gruelling and emotional challenges set out by the COVID-19, the contributions of Greater Sudbury paramedics are being recognized in-person for the first time in two years as the city celebrates Paramedic Week.
The national celebration, which takes place this year from May 22 to 28, recognizes the essential work of paramedics and the many sacrifices they’ve made to keep their community safe. City officials joined members of the local paramedic service at the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre to launch the event Tuesday.
“The last two years have been particularly challenging and the struggle that you have faced as frontline paramedic responders in addition to your regular role has been demanding,” said Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger in his address to the audience of paramedics, which included 15 new recruits.
Bigger, who read the official proclamation, added that the contributions of paramedics have been essential to the community, especially during the pandemic.
“We are glad to have this opportunity to say a special thank you to our local paramedics and emergency services, for your strength, for your compassion and dedication to the residents of Greater Sudbury,” he added. “Your hard work is what makes our community a safer and healthier place.
"You hold the power to dramatically improve survival and recovery, and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do.”
The pandemic has forced Sudbury paramedics to drastically adjust the ways they deliver pre-hospital care, but it has also led to a number of innovative solutions that have become a model for other paramedic services, according to Greater Sudbury's chief administration officer, Ed Archer.
“We are a community that anticipates and expects a lot from our paramedics,” said Archer. “Our geography, the distribution of our community throughout this vast municipality, calls for innovative calls for progressiveness in ways that other communities don’t necessarily have to think about. And we respond.”
Those solutions have included programs meant to ease to pressure on overloaded local health-care services. According to Joseph Nicholls, chief of Fire and Paramedic Services, Sudbury paramedics delivered 800 vaccines, administered 1,200 at-home PCR tests, and helped to monitor 475 COVID patients - who otherwise wouldn’t have access to care - in their homes.
All this, he said, was part of a larger sacrifice that Paramedic Week aims to recognize.
“There was so much unknown at the beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “Despite the uncertainty, each of you kept coming to work and responding to this community’s needs, while you continued to be there and protect your families. For many, that meant parking trailers outside your homes, or isolating to protect your families from unknown risk. But in the end, you rose to the occasion.”
Alongside the addresses, the ceremony also welcomed 15 new recruits to the service, who joined an honour guard to receive their epaulettes.
According to Gino St. Jean, an advanced care paramedic and platoon training officer, the 15 new paramedics were selected from a pool of 56 applicants.
“I think they should feel very proud,” said St. Jean, who trained the new hires.
Tuesday’s ceremony was the first time the annual batch of new recruits was introduced during Paramedic Week, said St. Jean.
“We usually do a presentation at City Hall with the councillors and the mayor in the chamber,” he said. “But this year, we thought we’d do something different and include them in our honour guard procedure and have the chief hand them their epaulettes as a welcome to the service.”
As a paramedic himself, St. Jean said the annual Paramedic Week celebrations are an opportunity to educate the public on what they do. But he said it’s also a meaningful gesture of appreciation.
“It’s a little tap on the shoulder for us for the good work we’ve all done through the past few years,” he said. “Especially since it’s been a difficult time for everybody. It’s something pretty special for all of us.”
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Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star