As Toronto marks the tenth anniversary of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the leaders of Local 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 416) are urging residents to reflect on the many ordinary city workers who became extraordinary heroes.
“There is no mistaking the fact that SARS had a major impact on each and every Emergency Medical Service (EMS) worker on duty during that period,” says Local 416 Ambulance Unit Chairperson Mike Merriman.
“In spite of the fear, and the great personal risk, the women and men of Toronto EMS set aside their own safety and well-being for the good of a community in the midst of a public health crisis,” he added.
During the outbreak, a total of 436 paramedics were placed in quarantine, some of them were exposed to SARS as much as three times. When it was all over, six paramedics had contracted SARS and were placed in intensive care.
“Some of them still have ongoing medical issues, ten years later,” said Merriman.
Following the outbreak, CUPE made several recommendations to the Campbell Commission that reviewed the events surrounding the SARS outbreak. While there have been some changes to public health reporting in Ontario, Merriman says all Ontarians have a stake in ensuring we are more prepared than we were ten years ago.
“We owe to our sisters and brothers who were sickened or lost their lives as result of SARS, to always be vigilant, and to do our utmost to prevent another outbreak,” he said.