Medical services vital part of Seniors Games

They’ll be the unsung heroes, the people you probably won’t even notice until someone needs them.

  • Aug. 10, 2011 5:00 p.m.

They’ll be the unsung heroes, the people you probably won’t even notice until someone needs them.

But medical services staff and volunteers are vital to the upcoming BC Seniors Games and without them, the event most likely wouldn’t get out of the blocks.

“The volunteers at the venues are far more important than the organizers because they’re the face of the Games, the contacts for the athletes, the friendly face and the person to cue in to whatever you need to get done,” said Dr. Nelson Ames, medical co-director and former public health officer.

Which is why Ames and Shelia Hart, director of medical services volunteers, are imploring people with medical experience or first aid certification to sign up.

“I desperately need more (volunteers) — I’ve got one site that I haven’t got anybody for yet, plus I don’t have people for backup,” Hart lamented.

While she’s confident that they will be able to fill the gaps before the Games begin, even last-minute volunteers will be welcomed with open arms.

Each sport venue will have an appropriate number and certification of medical volunteers and a cell phone, Ames said.

Each city also has its own medical centre, separate from existing facilities, to deal with any problems or concerns that athletes may encounter during the Games.

Evergreen Physio has volunteered as the medical centre in Trail, where nurses, nurse practicioners, dentists and other specialists will be on-hand and on-call to attend to any problems that arise.

“Their job is to interface with the regular healthcare system so try as much as possible to keep people from going to the emergency room and track down family doctors on the days of the Games,” explained Ames.

Because the Games are being held in mid-August, instead of September as usual, the two are expecting heat-related issues to be the biggest medical concern.

Sunblock, hats and plenty of water will be key to preventing some of those issues, Hart added. There will also be a handout provided to athletes about heat issues and how to prevent them when they arrive.

For the most part, participants are healthy and in the history of the Games very few injuries have happened.

But when you’re 55 and over anything can happen, so the medical side is preparing for anything and everything.

“We’re not trying to become a sports medicine clinic, we’re really just here to deal reactively with things that come up for the days of the Games — and that in of itself is a huge challenge,” said Ames. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of thinking through scenarios — what could happen, who could we call.”

While there is no formal agreement between the Games medical volunteers and emergency medical services, they will all be on standby during the Games. Ames added that should the worst happen, emergency social services is also on standby.

“It’s really important because you plan for the worst and hope for the best, so we’re doing just that,” he continued. “You don’t want to be unprepared for something that could happen.

A veteran of the health field, Hart said it’s been interesting working in this position for the Games because of the reunion-like circumstances of the situation.

“It’s almost like a reunion of the people who have been involved in health care for many, many years in their working lives and they are now committing themselves to help pull this together from the medical services perspective.

“It’s been very time-consuming and challenging but very fun to work with these people again.”

For more information, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit

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