Health minister meets with Vancouver firefighters responding to overdose crisis
Fentanyl-containing tablets are shown in this undated file photo.
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, November 10, 2016 5:12PM EST
VANCOUVER -- Emergency calls at Vancouver's Fire Hall No. 2 in the Downtown Eastside have nearly doubled since the introduction of the deadly opioid fentanyl.
Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney says the fire hall has been making about 1,000 runs per month this year, compared with an average of 600 calls every month in past years as overdose reports pour in from the neighbourhood.
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott met with municipal and provincial officials today at the fire hall to hear about the challenges that first responders are experiencing as they try to cope with the overdose crisis.
Philpott told reporters before the meeting that she is advocating to make safe consumption sites like Vancouver's Insite possible for more communities that want them, but that's only one part of a larger solution to combating the overdose crisis.
The B.C. government declared a public health emergency in April because of the dramatic increase in overdose deaths in the province, much of them caused by fentanyl.
McKearney says while the Downtown Eastside hall remains ready to respond to fires, crews have shifted their focus to medical calls and have had to reduce the area they cover in an effort to be able to respond to medical emergencies.
The chief says local firefighters were trained in February to use the opioid antidote naloxone and now save lives on a daily basis in a routine that could set an example for other jurisdictions in Canada to follow.