Winnipeg firefighter union calls for separation of emergency services
WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg’s firefighter’s union said it’s time to isolate emergency services from one another because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to separate for our own well-being, so that the exposures are not going to take out the whole fire department,” said Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg.
Forrest said he sent a letter Health Minister Cameron Friesen and Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane.
He’s asking that halls across the city be designated for either fire/rescue calls, or for non-COVID-19-related medical calls.
Forrest wants to see all ambulances responding to instances where there are flu-like symptoms or known COVID-19 cases moved out of stations and into hospitals and assessment centres.
“Because this is not a treatment issue it’s a transportation issue and that’s what ambulance does best,” he said.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said it has not yet received the letter.
In a statement it said all solutions practical to Winnipeg’s integrated response model have been implemented through all points of an interaction with WFPS.
“The WFPS is monitoring the pandemic as it evolves, and adapting protocols and procedures as needed," the statement reads.
The union representing paramedics is not on board with Forrest’s plan at this time.
Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union President Michelle Gawronsky released a statement.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic, and this is a scary time for all health care providers including paramedics, nurses, doctors and other health care workers. We are surprised that firefighters are choosing this time to opt out of EMS care.” said Gawronsky
In his letter, Forrest stated the system of “siloing” has been used in other countries like China and the United States to keep the virus from spreading among emergency responders.
“This is not and ambulance versus fire issue, it’s about looking at the resources looking at the particular jobs that the sections do,” said Forrest.