Essex-Windsor paramedics are extremely concerned that the region could face an ambulance shortage after a COVID-19 outbreak at the Essex-Windsor paramedic service. Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting that ten paramedics from the service have contracted COVID-19.

“Prior to the pandemic we were often operating in a code yellow or code red situation where the number of ambulances available to respond to emergency calls service was severely limited,” said James Jovanovic, sub-unit chair for CUPE 2974, which represents the region’s paramedics. “If we are sending ten medics home with COVID-19 to isolate, we don’t have a lot of people waiting to take their place, we’ve always been spread pretty thin. I think what we are starting to see is the next wave of pressure on our health care system as the virus continues to spread.”

Further COVID-19 related strain to the region’s paramedic service comes from offload delay issues. There are fewer hospital beds available for non-COVID-19 patients. Paramedics taking patients to a hospital need to wait with them, sometimes for hours, until they can transfer care to the hospital. During these offload delays the paramedics are unable to respond to new calls. Sometimes an ambulance will need to be dispatched from another region.

Laura Wilkinson, President of CUPE 2974, sees the outbreak at Essex-Windsor paramedic service as the outcome of the Ford government’s failure to contain the virus and protect frontline workers. “The Ford government needs to get this under control. We have already seen the province’s Long-Term Care facilities over run, we are seeing it spread through workplaces in our region and now it has spread to our paramedics,” Wilkinson said. “Ford just made an announcement placing more restrictions on individuals and blaming the people of Ontario for the rising case count, but the numbers in Essex-Windsor don’t lie, a lot of these cases are coming from workplaces. If someone in Essex-Windsor calls 911 and there is no ambulance available, responsibility for that falls squarely on the Premier.”