A solemn ceremony unveiling a permanent memorial recognizing Canadian EMS personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty was fittingly interrupted by a real call.
The Swift Current and District Ambulance Service office was the site of the unveiling of Saskatchewan's first memorial saluting the sacrifice made by EMS who lost their lives in the line of duty. The monument contains the names of the 33 EMS individuals who have lost their lives between Nov. 1980 through to Dec. 2010. The list includes eight medics killed in Afghanistan as members of the Canadian military, and also ambulance personnel who have lost their lives in air ambulance crashes, ambulance highway accidents, heart attacks, and from other tragic causes.
"This profession of ours is much more dangerous than most people realize. Since 1988, more than 26 pre-hospital care providers in Canada have lost their lives while performing their duties," pointed out Ken Luciak, EMS Chiefs of Canada. "For many providers, their workplace is uncontrolled and subject to dangers that are related to extreme weather conditions, and that of people, motor vehicle collisions, hazardous material exposures, infectious diseases, long working hours, and cumulative stress. Most, if not all of these people today, were aware of these dangers and yet they continued to report to work and do what they were educated to do - provide out-of-hospital medical care."
Grant Ross, Administrator of the Canadian Paramedic Benevolent Society acknowledged Swift Current's memorial as the first of its kind in Saskatchewan and one of the few in Canada. He said the granite memorial is more than a list of names, co-workers, colleagues, and friends.
"They undertook and had a passion for the special roll that we play in healthcare and in public safety. They are willing to take care of people in the worst of conditions, and under the worst of circumstances. They knew that there were dangers inherent in the work that we do, but they knew that also what we do makes a difference. It's important that we never forget their ultimate sacrifice and also that we never forget the ongoing value of the work that we all continue to do," Ross said.
"I think what you've done here, hopefully, will be an example for paramedics and other EMS agencies across the country to continue to recognize our fallen and to take pride in the special role that we do play in public health and care."
Nelson Pompu from Swift Current and District Ambulance Service said it is important to remember these brave comrades and EMS who have made the supreme sacrifice while providing care to the sick, injured and dying.
"We actually just kind of thought about it ourselves," Pompu said, noting they had spoken to the Canadian Paramedic Benevolent Society regarding whether there was a monument in Canada to recognize these fallen comrades. "There really wasn't so we just decided that we had this space, we wanted to do something permanent, we decided to make this a monument to those who had fallen."
"There have been sacrifices. People can't acknowledge that if they don't know its happened. So this brings it out," Pompu said of the monument. "it's important to keep that alive. It's important to keep their names alive."
He too felt the real sirens from the Swift Current Fire Department and Swift Current and District Ambulance Service responding to a real call made the ceremony more impacting.
"That's the thing of it, we never know where or when you're going to get called, and you never know where or when your time may be up. You just do your duty."