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  • Letter to Provincial Health Officer
    Updated On: Oct 19, 2005
    October 19, 2005

    October 19, 2005




    Office of the Provincial Health Officer
    4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
    , B.C.

    V8W 3C8


    Dear Dr. Kendall:


    I am writing on behalf of the 3350 career fire fighters in the province of British Columbia who provide first responder services in their communities.  There has been much information published in the past several months regarding the strong possibility of a global influenza pandemic being caused by the mutation of the H5N1 avian flu virus. 


    You are no doubt aware of two recent developments relating to the avian flu, the first being that American researchers who recently reconstructed the 1918 Spanish flu virus reported that it appeared to be entirely “avian-like”.  And an editorial in this week’s Lancet warns that all countries urgently need to prepare for a looming pandemic that could kill as many people as the Spanish flu. 


    In all communities with career fire departments, fire fighters are the first level of response in the layered pre-hospital care system.  In the Lower Mainland, fire fighter first responders arrive on scene ahead of the B.C. Ambulance Service over 60% of the time.  In many other cases, they arrive simultaneously or just after the paramedics.  If and when a flu pandemic occurs our members will be dealing with the same sick and potentially infectious patients as paramedics, nurses and doctors.


    Yet as I understand it fire fighters will not be part of the first group of ‘health care providers’ who will receive the vaccine which is developed once the new virus is identified, nor will they be provided with anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu or Relenza in the interim.  Fire fighters have been designated by your office as ‘essential service providers’ who will receive vaccine and anti-viral drugs secondarily (if they are even available).


    In the event of a pandemic this will place our members at great risk, and could result in compromising the initial level of response in what will most likely be an already overloaded pre-hospital care system.  I implore you to designate fire fighter first responders as ‘health care providers’ in relation to this particular issue, so that our members who are on the front lines during a pandemic will be afforded the same protection as others who must deal with patients suffering from the new virus.


    I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. 




    Joe Robertson, Executive Vice President

    British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association     



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