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November 15, 2013

Two JIBC staff members will provide medical care in the Philippines

Pair will provide medical services to typhoon victims

Update November 29, 2013: The CMAT Board, in collaboration with the Philippine Department of Health, has decided to conclude the CMAT deployment in the Philippines. With local infrastruce being restored, the CMAT team on the ground has seen a steadily decreasing number of patients. As a result, Kathy and Kevin are staying in BC this December.


Two JIBC staff members are preparing to spend December in the Philippines, bringing desperately needed emergency medical services to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Paramedic Academy Program Director Kathy Harms, and Office of International Affairs Program Director Kevin Sanford will ship out early in December, as part of a mission from CMAT – Canadian Medical Assistance Teams, a non-governmental organization that provides medical relief to victims of disaster and conflict. There, they will help establish a field hospital that will be staffed with volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and paramedics.

Harms, a CMAT vice chair, and Sanford will follow an advance CMAT assessment team that arrived in Cebu, Philippines on November 14. That group caught a military flight to Tacloban, where they were expected to connect with staff from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for a briefing on where the greatest need is for medical relief. The assessment team will then make its way to that area, and establish a site for a field hospital.

In the meanwhile, Harms is working around the clock to build the first two 12-15 member medical teams that will be based at that field hospital. The work includes securing flights (donated where possible), raising funds, and liaising with Foreign Affairs, CIDA and the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa.

Once in the Philippines, Harms will be a Team Leader for one of the two teams. Her responsibilities will include liaising with the UN Health Clusters and local government as well with other NGOs, and leading the interdisciplinary team in the field.

Harms and Sanford are no strangers to major disaster response efforts. Harms is a licensed Advanced Care Paramedic, a 19-year veteran of BC Ambulance Service, and has been a CMAT board member since 2005. She deployed with CMAT as a Team Leader to Pakistan (2005 earthquake), Bangladesh (2008 floods) and Haiti (2010 earthquake).

Sanford, who served 21 years with BC Ambulance Service, accompanied Harms on the mission to Haiti and also deployed with CMAT to Japan in 2011 following the earthquake and tsunami.

There are other JIBC-trained paramedics with the CMAT mission, as well as with the Canadian Forces DART team that is deploying to the Philippines. The CMAT assessment team includes two JIBC-trained paramedics and there will be others assigned to the medical teams, and many of the DART medics received Primary Care Paramedic training from JIBC.

Harms says that JIBC paramedic training is a solid foundation for readiness to help in international disaster situations. “Our use of immersive simulations, and the increasing focus on transferable skills, and interprofessional practice in JIBC paramedic programs, prepare graduates to work in the kind of demanding and unpredictable environments created by a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan,” she says.

Anyone who is planning to make a financial contribution to the relief efforts in the Philippines is invited to donate to CMAT – which is a registered Canadian charity. The federal government has committed to match all donations earmarked for the Philippines disaster, if made by December 8.

Tags: Paramedic Academy

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Last updated October 3, 2014