Jean-Philippe Guyon, paramedic: “We are front line actors”
Workers everywhere are on the front lines despite the end of countless social, cultural and economic activities. The newspapers of the National Cooperative of Independent Information publish a series of portraits of those for whom there is neither isolation at home nor telework. These everyday heroes who stand guard in our upset lives.
P aramedic for 17 years and supervisor within the ambulance company Dessercom in Granby, Jean-Philippe Guyon is at the heart of the action. In his career, he has never experienced a crisis of the magnitude of that of COVID-19 which is currently hitting the whole world. He and his work colleagues are on the front lines. Despite the anxiety and fear, they keep their spirits and are ready to intervene with the population.
Q What has the life of paramedics looked like since the start of the crisis?
A It’s a little bit of fear and insecurity. With everything that’s going on, it’s unknown to everyone. Our daily life is arriving at patients who will not tell the truth so as not to be judged. Our daily lives are also protocols which can change every 15 minutes.
Q What tasks have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?
R Maintenance of trucks, equipment. Disinfection. There is more. Our ways of doing things have changed. It’s cleaning over cleaning to make sure everything is clean for the next patient. And for us. We now have a questionnaire to fill out two meters from the patient. Once it is done, we can intervene more adequately. When you get to the hospital, if you have any possible cases, you call the staff to notify them. From there, they will initiate their protocol. When they are ready, the patient is brought to an area designed to accommodate them. Between us, the paramedics, we observe each other. It’s like a firefighter entering a burning house watching over his colleagues. It is a team effort.
Q Does the current situation remind you of other events similar to the one we are experiencing?
A We had H1N1 and SARS. It hadn’t touched us too much, too much, but still. We were ready. We had these protocols. We had Ebola too. In terms of scale, it’s different. This time, we’re really in it. In the population, it is the effect of the small grain that walks and that touches the other small grain and it multiplies.
Q As a pre-hospital professional, what is your feeling about being at the front to help the population?
A We are frontline players. We are the ones who pick up the patients at home. We are going to give the advice. We are also starting to make interventions with people in psychological distress. They are scared. I do not know where we are going in this crisis, but we may be doing more than what we are doing now. In some areas in Ontario, paramedics do the screening.
Q As a health care worker, what message would you like to send to the public to minimize the risk of spread?
A First, it is to listen to the instructions of the Prime Minister and Doctor Horacio Arruda. It is very wise to do so. The fewer people who go around, the longer people stay at home, the less the virus will spread. When a patient requests us, he must tell the truth. As much at 911 as when we arrive. Use basic cleaning and disinfection instructions at home and minimize travel. It will help immensely. We must do what the government tells us to do to succeed.
Q Is there an image that describes what you are going through right now?
R Solidarity. Many people encourage us. Restaurants come to give us free meals. They feel that we work hard, that we work a lot of hours. Granby is one of the sectors very affected.
Q What will we learn from the current pandemic?
Our daily life will change. In terms of health, it will change a lot, in all areas. We will take a lot more precautions.