Ambulance staff lack training and equipment for Ebola in GTA

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Ambulance services in Toronto, Hamilton and Peel – the region that includes Canada’s busiest airport – scramble to prepare nearly 1,800 paramedics for Ebola after Ontario Ministry of Labor inspectors have discovered that they had not sufficiently equipped or trained their emergency responders to safely transport patients with the disease.

The inspections were carried out on October 14 in Peel and on October 16 in Toronto and Hamilton, two weeks after the diagnosis of the first Ebola case in the United States, and months after the Ebola outbreak in Africa from l The west has started to spiral out of control, increasing the likelihood of the virus spreading in Canada.

“During this visit, we learned that the workers had not been informed by the employer of the danger associated with [Ebola virus disease]According to the Peel Regional Paramedic Services Inspection Report, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. “In addition, the workers have not received any training or instruction regarding the use, care and limitations [of personal protective equipment], including how to put on and take off safely [it.]”

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Reports for Toronto and Hamilton, also obtained by The Globe, reflect similar concerns. Some Toronto paramedics, worried about their potential exposure, threatened to refuse to work before inspectors were called, their union said.

Last week another case of Ebola was confirmed in the United States, this time with a New York doctor returning from treating Ebola patients in Guinea. When he developed a fever on Thursday, he was rushed to hospital by ambulance – a reminder that paramedics, like their colleagues at the hospital, must be prepared to treat Ebola patients.

Public health officials in Canada, however, continue to stress that the risk of an Ebola case occurring here is “very low” and that the virus is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, which means makes it hard to catch.

Across Canada, provincial governments are taking different approaches to preparing their emergency workers for Ebola.

In Quebec, the Minister of Health has promised that specialized paramedical teams will be sent to pick up patients anywhere in the province if they are positive for the virus or if they have infectious symptoms such as vomiting and swelling. diarrhea after traveling to the outbreak area.

Alberta, for its part, trains and equips emergency responders for Ebola, without designating specific ambulances or crews.

In Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is in the process of designating and equipping ambulances to transport patients with confirmed cases of Ebola to one of 10 treatment centers; the ministry is also considering isolation modules for use in designated ambulances.

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But until at least the middle of this month, some paramedics in Toronto, Peel and Hamilton felt unprepared.

“There were obviously serious concerns from our members about their protection in the event of a suspicious Ebola call, to the point that some of our members were contacting us because they were about to refuse to work,” said Mike Merriman, EMS. Unit President of CUPE Local 416.

Adam Thurston, the acting commander of the Toronto Emergency Medical Services Community Safeguarding Services program, said Toronto Emergency Medical Services are now purchasing improved personal protective equipment. It also sends supervisors to provide hands-on training during lulls in paramedic shifts, an approach the union calls ad hoc and opposes.

“What we’re trying to do is have one-on-one sessions,” Thurston said. “Understand that we must go beyond [950] paramedics in a very short time, as quickly as possible. It’s the best way for us to go out and do it. “

With reports by Allan Maki in Calgary and des Perreaux in Montreal


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