Hamilton

Niagara medic who came to work with COVID-19 back on the job; firm probing what went wrong

A Niagara paramedic who found out he had tested positive for COVID-19 while at work, causing 26 colleagues to go into self-isolation, is back on the job and a "comprehensive investigation" into the incident is now underway.

26 employees of Niagara EMS were forced to self-isolate after the incident

Niagara EMS says a third party is investigating the "workplace exposure incident" that happened on April 15. (Niagara EMS)

A Niagara paramedic who found out he had tested positive for COVID-19 while at work, causing 26 colleagues to go into self-isolation, is back on the job and a "comprehensive investigation" into the incident is now underway.

"We are relieved that all paramedics who were involved in the workplace exposure incident on April 15 are healthy and able to return to work," wrote EMS Chief Kevin Smith in a statement emailed to CBC.

Once the service discovered the medic had tested positive the service "took immediate action" — directing everyone in the station to pull on protective equipment, the chief previously said.

The medic was also sent home to self-isolate and staff carried out a deep cleaning of the station and ambulance before being told to head home themselves.

A total of 26 other workers were identified by public health through contact tracing and ordered to self-isolate.

Smith noted "no concerns" for patients or other emergency personnel were identified as the service had already mandated all of its staff wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection on calls.

"It has been confirmed that this paramedic did wear the appropriate PPE at all times when providing patient care meaning that all people this person came in contact with while performing his duties as a paramedic outside of the station were not exposed," he said at the time.

One key question still to be answered is how a paramedic who had been tested for the novel coronavirus was able to continue reporting for work and for how long he continued to show up before finding out he had the virus.

Signs remind staff to stop and assess themselves before entering any Niagara EMS building, said the chief. They're also required to fill out and pass a self-declaration checklist of COVID-19 symptoms on a work computer before signing in.

What is clear is that anyone who undergoes testing for the novel coronavirus is supposed to be instructed to self-isolate until they get a negative result, according to Niagara public health.

Now third-party firm is investigating in order to "inform the service in an unbiased and impartial review," Smith said Monday.

Niagara paramedic service would not say who the firm is, but the chief noted the service worked closely with CUPE 911, the union representing paramedics and dispatchers, to select the investigator and the framework for the probe.

Smith said he's confident the review will be completed in the coming weeks.

"Niagara EMS is committed to the health and safety of all the people working to keep our communities healthy and safe," he wrote.

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