With training already underway, and three new team members on board, "Team Canada-British Columbia" (or Team BC for short) is once again getting ready to compete in the annual Rallye Rejviz International Medical Rescue Competition in the Czech Republic.
Last year, Canada was represented at Rallye Rejviz by two teams for the first time - Team BC from the west, and Team Ontario from the East. Together, they took the top two podium positions – with Team Ontario winning the gold medal, and Team BC the silver. In the years before that, the BCEHS paramedics who make up Team BC had always been at, or near, the top.
"We're here to take back the gold this year," said Clarke McGuire, Manager of Team BC. "We're lucky to have such highly-trained, highly-competent and highly-professional paramedics in BC. We'll face dozens of paramedic teams from 20 countries again, so we'll be up against some of the best paramedics in the world."
After 40 years as a paramedic, the former advanced care paramedic is now concentrating squarely on prepping for the competition in May. This year's Team BC captain is primary care paramedic Alex Mattes, the only alumnus is returning from last year. New to the team this year are advanced care paramedics Will Riordon and Ron VanHouten, and critical care paramedic Gene Benoit.
"We landed on these three new members based on their experience and reputations," said McGuire. "When everyone says someone is a really good paramedic they are never wrong, but I also knew the personalities of these new team members would click, and so far everything is going great."
"It's all about cohesion," added Gene Benoit, who had considered joining the team in the past, but waited until this year to climb aboard. "Rallye Rejviz is a very intense competition, and to win you've got to know how your partners will react. Your actions need to be in sync with theirs if you're going to come up with your best performance."
As a clinical education instructor, Benoit is highly skilled, but he said that's only part of it. He said being able to depend upon, and complement, your partners is just as crucial. "I joined this year having worked with Ron before, and mentoring Will in the past. Based on the team's new chemistry, I knew this year I could help make a difference."
Together, Team BC will practice different response scenarios throughout the spring.
"First responder students, spouses and other family members have volunteered to be our 'patients' during training," McGuire said. "We're also getting great help from some fellow paramedics who dream up difficult medical situations to challenge our team, and then judge how we did."
Once at Rallye Rejviz, the pace is gruelling. Each team is dispatched to 10 mock calls within a 40 kilometre radius over a 24-hour time period. The responses of each team are judged by physicians, nurses and paramedics. Even the mock patient provides feedback on how they felt when they were treated.
After Rallye Rejviz is complete, Team BC will visit the Canadian Embassy in Prague to meet with Canadian Ambassador Barbara Richardson before heading home. McGuire will also be spreading the word about his team armed with Team BC t-shirts to hand out to supporters along the way.