Please, call 911 only for emergencies, say local paramedics preparing for COVID-19 surge

Paramedics on scene at a South Dundas accident in 2017. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

CORNWALL — Gearing up for a “dramatic” increase in calls related to COVID-19, the leaders of Cornwall SDG Paramedic Services say it is “more important than ever” that residents reserve 911 for emergencies only.

“We are expecting call volume to climb dramatically in the next few weeks and months,” said Paramedic Chief Bill Lister. “We are preparing to meet that demand, but we need the support, understanding, and patience of residents.”

Residents should only call 911 when they:

• may be having a heart attack or stroke,
• have been unconscious, or
• are having severe, unexplained shortness of breath.

They should not call 911 about flu symptoms, according to the Paramedic Services, which notes that alternatives to dialling 911 include:

• calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
• travelling for medical care by taxi or bus, or calling a friend for a ride
• using the online self-assessment tool for COVID-19 symptoms

“The community is already working together to ‘flatten the curve,’ which will help reduce the number of people asking for medical help at the same time,” said Lister. “Avoiding unnecessary 911 calls is another way residents can contribute to the fight against this pandemic.”

The plea from local paramedics is line with what’s happening across the provincial healthcare system, which is preparing for increased demand from COVID-19 patients by postponing elective surgeries, discharging patients from hospitals, expanding Telehealth services, and opening assessment centres.

In addition to hiring staff and putting more ambulances on the road, the Paramedic Services are partnering
with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to test at-risk individuals in their homes and working with long-term care facilities to keep the elderly out of the hospital.

Operating round the clock, Cornwall SDG Paramedic Services covers the 111,000 residents of United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry and the City of Cornwall.

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