Dufferin paramedics taking proper precautions during pandemic, says Tom Reid

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews

Dufferin County paramedics are assess people on a number of fronts to best determine possible COVID-19 patients.

Tom Reid, chief paramedic at the Dufferin County Paramedic Service, told County Council last Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has been closely monitored and plans are in place to safely aid local infected patients.

Indeed, many Dufferin County officials have been working to ensure critical and core services aren’t disrupted by the pandemic, said Sonya Pritchard, the county chief administrative officer.

Mr. Reid said the county’s communications centre has been screening calls with an ear toward identifying any that could be related to COVID-19. Then, when paramedics attend to the call, they also screen the patient to evaluate possible infection.

Finally, patients are screened at Headwaters Health Care Centre.

He said patient care and the safety of health care staff are paramount.

“Regardless of if it’s a motor vehicle accident or a shortness-of-breath 911 emergency call, all callers are screened,” said Mr. Reid.

The screening is used to determine high-risk situations.

“There’s a lot of work being done,” he said. “We’re ensuring that everyone takes the proper precautions, making sure that we limit our exposure to people that are ill.”

Proper precautions consist of personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes disposable gloves, face masks, and gowns to guard against the droplet-borne COVID-19. Mr. Reid said he’s concerned about the province-wide PPE shortage.

“There is a shortage of personal protective equipment and that is a concern,” said Mr. Reid. “I am not 100 per cent comfortable with the amount we have.

“We are taking it under consideration to try and not waste anything. That is a major concern.”

Given the finite PPE supply, Mr. Reid doesn’t believe local paramedics are in a position to require refusal of service.

“I think we’re a way from that,” he said. “I’m not concerned we’re going to have to refuse service, but obviously the safety of our staff is paramount.”

As part of training on how to respond to pandemic situations, Dufferin paramedics are taught to expect an infection rate of as much as 40 per cent of the population.

“If, in fact, those numbers are true … we will expect that 30 to 40 per cent of our workers will become infected. That’s the importance of having business continuity plans.”

To that end, Ms. Pritchard said the County of Dufferin has been updating business continuity plans to ensure critical and core services continue to be available should there be significant absenteeism due to infection among staff.

Alternate work arrangements such as working from home or staggered work hours are being accommodated to ensure against too many people in a work space at the same time. Backups for key personnel have been identified and council committee meetings have been cancelled.

“Any actions or directions we’re taking or giving are all in line with the guidance coming out of Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health,” she said. “There’s a lot of information coming from a lot of different places and we are following this credible (government agency) information as we take any actions.”

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