A tired 911 dispatcher sits with her head in her hands in front of six screens.

Photo Credit: Flight Safety Net

Heat Dome 2: Dome Harder?

It won't be quite as hot, but it'll still be spicy

Can the healthcare system keep up with the heatwave?

So our late-July heat wave won’t be a heat dome. But it’ll still be hot enough to cause some trouble. And not because of the heat, but because of the healthcare system.

Paramedics have left. So many nurses are sick and burnt out that emergency rooms are closing. Dispatchers are quitting 911 because they’re overwhelmed.

Ian Tait is an advanced care paramedic in BC. “I don’t want to be dramatic about it, but there’s a very real and likely threat that you’re going to call 911 and there could not be an ambulance coming,” he told Global News.

Tait was on call last year during the heat dome. In that week, roughly 600 people died from heat stress. He said those terrible days led to an even worse night: ambulance services basically collapsed.

“Some of my colleagues have never experienced a night like that,” Tait said.

“The 911 systems, our ability to respond, to triage high acuity calls, low acuity calls, essentially just got put on the back burner for a significant amount of time. So there were some very significant and tough decisions that had to be made that night by our dispatchers, for sure.”

The provincial government has brought in a heat alert system in response to last year’s heat dome.

But an alert system isn’t the same as properly supporting the healthcare system. It’s not the same as funding paramedics and emergency services.

And it’s not the same as giving people what they need to keep cool. Most of the folks who died in the heat dome died alone in their homes.

Gabrielle Peters is a disabled writer and analyst. She helped write the coroner’s report that showed how many people died in the heatwave.

But she quit because she didn’t see enough willingness to help the province’s most vulnerable people.

“People did not die because they didn’t have enough communications materials. People died because they were unable to escape the heat,” Peters told CBC.

It’s supposed to get into the high 20s and low 30s on VanIsle this week. What can you do to help your loved ones?

Get your older folks into some air conditioning. Go visit your sick loved ones and make sure they’re okay. Cool your kids down in a sprinkler or lake.

We might not be able to rely on emergency services, but we can still take care of each other.