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The EHS System Support team: Providing a behind-the-scenes lifeline during COVID-19

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As word came out of China in late December and early January of a mysterious virus that was beginning to spread, Gordie Parker and his team got to work in ensuring a stable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the virus’ eventual arrival in Nova Scotia.

Emergency Medical Care already had a stockpile of PPE, but the issue for Parker and his team was determining what their future needs might be for a virus that was still more than two months from coming to these shores.

“We were just seeing things coming, seeing what we could find, and it just got busier as time went on,” said Parker, the manager of Logistics and Materials Management.

In normal times, Parker’s team, which includes Ryan Stronach, Sean O’Leary, Mark Rice, and Richard Corning, is tasked with delivering medical supplies and equipment to stations across the province and two fleet centres in Dartmouth and Sydney.

Their duties also include facilities management, tasks which could not be put aside even amid a pandemic.

“We couldn’t let things go away – there were certain things we had to keep on top of,” Parker said. “So we continued with making deliveries as usual.”

Eventually, however, sourcing PPE became a 24-hour job, and the entire team came together to get it done.

Jill Burke joined the team in December, moving over to the Wilkinson station from her regular duties supporting the EHS Medical First Responder program.

As the Logistics Team Lead, Burke immediately got to work in helping source PPE, including hand sanitizer, gowns, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and goggles.

“We had to find different vendors…relationships were built to get some masks and PPE stocked up for when [the virus] came to Nova Scotia,” said Burke.

There were a lot of sleepless nights, but Burke said the pressure has begun easing in recent weeks.

“All those things that stopped shipping are now shipping again – so we were able to get a supply of surgical masks, we were able to get a supply of gowns. Different things are starting to kind of move again.”

For his part, Parker said the experience has been exhausting at times, but credits his family for helping keep him focused.

“You’re no good to yourself or anybody else [when you’re mentally fatigued]. You’ve got to stop, take a break, and re-focus,” he said.

But the major credit for keeping paramedic PPE supply at good levels throughout the pandemic goes to his small but mighty team, he said.

“The team has been excellent, you couldn’t ask for anything more. They’ve dug deep down, they’ve worked extra hours, they’ve made extra phone calls,” he said.

“You couldn’t ask for a better team – everyone has contributed and gone the extra mile to ensure all frontline and support staff have the proper equipment, supplies and PPE”.

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