Mayor Maja Tait is “extremely concerned” about the impacts of the opioid overdose crisis on Sooke firefighters.
Tait told district council recently she wants to ensure that firefighters attending drug overdose calls have all the equipment and support they need and says she’s willing to lobby senior government for more resources.
“The opioid crisis touches our community. There’s an obvious concern for residents in our community,” she said.
Last month B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) reported the number of overdose calls has steadily increased in the province during the pandemic. Sooke’s call numbers have more than doubled in the past four years.
BCEHS is responsible for call intake and dispatch of medical calls, but when an ambulance is not available, firefighters are sent to the call.
Sooke Fire Chief Ted Ruiter said municipal firefighters are trained and licensed to administer an enhanced level of emergency medical care to patients.
“Our firefighters are put into many tragic circumstances by us, and we need to look after them,” Tait said.
Sooke Fire Rescue answers few calls related to opioid overdose, said Ruiter.
“I’m not familiar with any opioid responses where we’ve specifically used Narcan (since early November), but the staff is trained and ready for those responses,” he said.
Nonetheless, the underlying concern is the wellness and mental health of firefighters, Tait said.
Given Sooke’s reliance on a volunteer firefighter force, she added, council also has to question whether the overdose crisis is a barrier to attracting new firefighters.