October 19, 2005
the Provincial Health Officer
4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
Dear Dr. Kendall:
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.
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.
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
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).
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
look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Robertson, Executive Vice President
British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association