Paramedics Union Worried About Ambulance Shortage

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The union that represents paramedics in Windsor-Essex is worried about a possible ambulance shortage.

As AM800 news reported Tuesday, an outbreak has been declared at Essex-Windsor EMS after 10 cases of COVID-19 were discovered, two from the workplace and eight contracted in the community.

"Prior to the pandemic we were often operating in a code yellow or code red situation where the number of ambulances available to respond to emergency calls service was severely limited," said James Jovanovic, sub-unit chair for CUPE Local 2974. "If we are sending 10 medics home with COVID-19 to isolate, we don't have a lot of people waiting to take their place, we,ve always been spread pretty thin. I think what we are starting to see is the next wave of pressure on our health care system as the virus continues to spread."

Speaking to AM800 News on Tuesday, EMS Chief Bruce Krauter had similar comments and said one of the biggest pressures is the number of people off work.

"It's not only the 10, but if there's any close contacts they may have been having before they got tested, they may have had contact with some of our workers so then we isolate them for precaution and to monitor symptoms."

In addition to a shortened roster, a lack of hospital beds is also cause for concern according to the union, because paramedics taking patients to a hospital need to wait with them, sometimes for hours, until they can transfer care to the hospital. 

During these offload delays the union says paramedics are unable to respond to new calls meaning an ambulance will need to be dispatched from another region.