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BCEHS honoured for paramedic work at overdose site

BCEHS Director of Patient Care on Vancouver Island, Lance Stephenson, stepped forward with Island Manager Brad Cameron on June 24 to receive a Golden Apple – an honour bestowed annually to the best in BC health care.
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BCEHS Vancouver Island Director Lance Stephenson, right, and Manager Brad Cameron celebrate their Health Employers Association of BC Award called the Golden Apple.


Health Care Award for collaborative work

The recognition, given by the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC), was for the best collaborative solution. Stephenson and Cameron, who worked together with several health partners, including the Vancouver Island Health Authority, could have used a basket full of “golden apples” to honour everyone who collaborated in the award-winning project.

For more than a year the BCEHS team worked with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to secure a role for paramedics in Victoria’s overdose prevention site. A year ago, The Harbour prevention site opened with paramedics as full-time members of the staff. There are more than 40 overdose prevention sites in B.C., this is the only one employing full-time BCEHS paramedics. Integrating BCEHS paramedics on site as part of the health team is considered a first in terms of leading paramedic practice in Canada.  As Stephenson explained it, putting paramedics “under a roof” instead of solely “on car” is new, and something BCEHS is more and more exploring. 

“We are proud to have our paramedics part of this ground-breaking, integrated health-care team,” says Stephenson. “BCEHS joined our health partners to come together to provide life-saving support for participants at The Harbour.”

In the year The Harbour has been open, BCEHS paramedics have reversed more than 200 overdoses at the site and prevented about 170 ambulance responses. Four BCEHS paramedics, on rotation covering seven days a week, respond to about 25 potential overdoses a month.  

Paramedics on site also provide their expertise in identifying serious illness and injures and providing early medical intervention and medical referrals for the site’s clients. It’s a privilege, said one paramedic who works at the site, to see clients regularly. “It’s something you don’t get when responding to a series of medical emergencies.”

With more than 1,000 visits a week to the consumption room, it really is a collaborative effort at The Harbour Community Health and Wellness Centre. The Golden Apple award includes the collaborative work of harm reduction workers, nurses, persons with lived experience and social program officers. 


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