Saskatoon

Saskatoon Fire Department paramedics ready, willing to help with vaccine rollout

Primary-care paramedics at the Saskatoon Fire Department will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine as part of priority groups within the province, but there is some concern not all frontline firefighters were included.

Wayne Rodger, assistant chief with the SFD, says more than 20 primary-care paramedics are ready to vaccinate

Wayne Rodger, assistant chief with the Saskatoon Fire Department, says almost two dozen primary-care paramedics with the department are ready and willing to help with the province's COVID-19 vaccine rollout. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Some members of the Saskatoon Fire Department may soon have a new task ahead of them: administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

Primary-care paramedics (PCP) with the city's fire department are able to upgrade their training in order to administer the vaccine and several are already trained.

"Any vaccine that would be provided by the health ministry and distributed through SHA for administration could be by our PCPs to other Fire Department staff, civic staff — and then upon request from the SHA — maybe even to members of the public within the Saskatoon region," said Wayne Rodger, assistant chief with the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD).

He said right now there are 34 paramedics able to conduct COVID-19 tests and 23 trained on providing the vaccine. Those numbers could climb as the pandemic continues.

Of the service's roughly 337 employees, only the roughly 137 PCPs will be given the option for priority vaccination.

Clint Belitsky is the secretary with the International Association of Firefighters Local 80 (IAFF 80), which represents firefighters in Saskatoon. He said that while the IAFF welcomes paramedics getting the vaccine quickly, there are some concerns other frontline firefighters were missed.

"All of our firefighters go into medical calls, they assist in different ways," he said, noting a firefighters' role may include helping with CPR or transporting a patient.

"Whether it's inside a house, or inside an apartment, or up and down stairs, all of our members are in close contact throughout shifts."

Clint Belitsky, secretary of the International Association of Firefighter Local 80, which represents firefighters in Saskatoon, says they've been lobbying to have other frontline firefighters get vaccinated alongside primary care paramedics. (Supplied by Clint Belitsky)

Belitsky said the association isn't trying to muscle its way into the line-up.

"We feel like they're left out a little bit, but we understand that there's a limited number," he said.

Belitsky said the association is happy members will be able to help administer vaccines, saying it will be "easier and quicker" to get the vaccination in house than going to a clinic or immunization centre. 

Rodger said the SFD is determining who will get the vaccine first by examining risk and potential exposure.

"Our firefighters that are working alongside the paramedics would certainly have a greater opportunity than say I would to receive that vaccine earlier," he said. 

Rodger said communication between the Ministry of Health, the SHA and the department has been consistent and ongoing.

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