Local paramedic services strained amid Omicron wave
Just like the broader healthcare system, local paramedics are facing the brunt of the latest wave of COVID-19, as a rise in infections puts a toll on available staff.
Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services deputy chief Rob Crossan said there are currently 17 paramedics and support staff off work after “either testing positive, coming in close contact of a positive or in isolation for any number of reasons.”
Those 17 staff members account for five per cent of the region’s paramedic workforce of 340 employees.
The Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service has 160 members on its staff, with 19 currently unavailable due to COVID-19.
“The impact is quite tremendous,” Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services deputy chief Leanne Swantko said. “Again and again I look at our team and I just have to commend the dedication and professionalism that our paramedics have.”
Some staff members have extended their shifts while staffing levels remain manageable, but officials worry the situation could get worse.
“We know with this Omicron variant, that could change tomorrow,” Crossan warned. “Tomorrow we could have 40 people on that list and then we have a problem similar to what other jurisdictions have been facing.”
Crossan adds that paramedics often find themselves waiting with patients at hospital.
“Our offload delays are skyrocketing now. It’s just sheer volume, the number of admitted patients, those patients backing up into [emergency] and us being unable to offload out patients into beds because there are no beds that are free,” said Crossan.
Paramedic services also seeing more emergency calls coming in while also facing a shortage of available ambulances.
“We do want people, if they’re having chest pain or stroke symptoms or any true emergency, please reach out and call 9-1-1. We will come to you.” Swantko said. “However, if you do have a situation that may be better taken care of elsewhere, that would help assist the paramedics, it would assist out dispatchers, it would assist the hospital and it would assist the community.”