Nfld. & Labrador

With 4 paramedic teams sidelined, need for honesty escalates over ambulance calls

Health officials are calling for honesty from people who call for an ambulance.

Health minister, union, association call for honesty from people who call for an ambulance

Four teams of paramedics are in self-isolation after learning they potentially came into contact with COVID-19. (CBC)

Paramedics will answer the call whenever someone is in need, but the health minister, a union and the association that represents them are all asking people to be honest with their COVID-19 symptoms when they call 911.

The plea comes after four teams of paramedics unknowingly came into contact with patients who had been exposed to COVID-19. The paramedics are now in self-isolation.

Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said he has been in touch with some of the paramedics who have had to come off the job due to their possible exposure to the virus.

"Probably not purposefully but ultimately [the patient] ended up lying or not fully admitting to some of their recent travel and recent exposure," Gaudet said Friday.

"Maybe they're afraid they wont be treated the same or treated differently or not transported to hospital, but that's not the case at all."

Rodney Gaudet is president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Gaudet said paramedics need to know ahead of time so they can wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering someone's house.

Health Minister John Haggie stressed Thursday that whether or not you have been exposed to COVID-19 will not affect your care.

"These folk will come no matter what," Haggie said. 

"But please warn them, please let them know, it's for your protection and it's for their protection when they go home to their families."

NAPE president Jerry Earle echoed those statements during an interview with Here & Now.

PPE kits on trucks

Gaudet said some paramedics learned of their exposure through public health's contact tracing, which is done when a person tests positive with COVID-19.

In another case, Gaudet said paramedics only knew that a patient had COVID-19 symptoms when they were already inside their home.

The answers they received to their questions led them to believe the person could have the virus, and it appears as though the details were not disclosed earlier to dispatch.

Paramedics don't wear their PPEs on every call, but each truck has a kit in the event they have to use it.

Gaudet points out that some other jurisdictions have decided to equip paramedics with their PPEs at all times.

The supply looks good now, he said, but there is concern over how long the items will last long term.

As for staffing, Gaudet said paramedics seem to be in good shape, despite having four teams at home in self-isolation.

He warns the consequences could be disastrous if these occurrences keep happening, leaving paramedics short-staffed and burned out.

Read more by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

With files from Carolyn Stokes

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