CUPE Paramedics are raising concerns about non-medical grade masks that may have entered some Ontario land ambulance services supplies. Ontario’s health minister yesterday told media that non-medical grade masks introduced into the paramedic service in Renfrew County entered the supply chain through sources other than the provincial stockpile.

Non-medical grade masks were in use for several days before they were uncovered by a CUPE paramedic in Renfrew. CUPE is verifying reports that non-medical grade masks have surfaced in other areas of the province.

In response, CUPE Ontario and the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario (CACO) are demanding increased oversight and quality control in the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment for frontline workers. CUPE represents more than 5,500 paramedics across the province.

CUPE is specifically requesting that the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health immediately audit the situation across all paramedic services in Ontario to discover how these sub-standard masks entered the supply chain and to prevent it from happening in the future.

“The spread of non-medical grade masks into the supply chain puts our paramedics, their families, and the public at risk,” says Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “We need to operate on the precautionary principal and have proper protective equipment on every call. That is the only way we are going to protect people.”

Currently, paramedic services are acquiring personal protective equipment through the province and other sources.

“This can’t wait,” says CACO chair Jason Fraser. “Paramedic services need to be proactive. If any service has sourced and ordered PPE separately, they need to ensure that the materials they have are medical grade.”