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Paramedic Memorial Bell tolls in Greater Sudbury

Scaled-back celebration honours paramedics who have died in the line of duty or from mental health struggles

Greater Sudbury paid homage Friday to paramedics who have died in the line of duty or from mental health struggles.

Greater Sudbury marked one of 52 stops for the Ontario Paramedic Association and the Paramedic Memorial Bell. The names of 50 paramedics inscribed on the bell were each read aloud at Lionel E. Lalone Centre in Azilda, followed by a ring for each individual.

Greater Sudbury has about 160 full- and part-time paramedics who respond to 28,000 calls across the city every year, said Joseph Nicholls, chief, Emergency Medical Services. 

“To do this work, you are sacrificing much,” Nicholls said. “Paramedics are passionate about what they do, they are good at what they do, and they do it with professionalism and distinction every shift, but it comes with a price.”

That price is the toll it takes on mental health, Nicholls said. Paramedics see and experience things on a regular basis most people would never experience in their lifetime.

“So, we continue to raise awareness of mental health for all first responders, and ensure we put supports in place for those who reach out and need help, but we have a lot of work to do still, and we need to get to a point where we are no longer adding names to this bell.”

The bell was built in 2015 by Ottawa paramedic Michael Dunlop. Since the creation, a bike tour from Toronto to Ottawa has been held for all medics to participate in before the ceremony of reading the names takes place.

COVID-19 cancelled that event this year, though. Instead the bell left the capital and is travelling to each of the 50 paramedic services in Ontario.

“We need to remember these people, the sacrifices they made, and the fact their families are still hurting,” Nicholls said. “We need to keep pushing to find better protocols, better procedures, so paramedics can go to work and then go home safely. As chief of EMS, it’s my commitment to our paramedics that they come to work healthy, and we need to send them home healthy.”

Arron Pickard

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