‘Our paramedics, supervisors, and logistics have been absolutely incredible throughout this pandemic’

The Omicron variant has led to staffing shortages across Ontario

No matter what wave of the pandemic Ontario has found itself in, County of Simcoe paramedics have had to ride each one focused on their own health while ensuring care and safety for the patients they come into contact with.

The highly contagious Omicron variant has presented new challenges. Staffing shortages have become the new normal across Ontario. County of Simcoe paramedics have not been left untouched.

“As a result of the slightly reduced staffing along with the increases in the numbers of patients transported to the hospital and longer in-hospital offload times, overall emergency response times to the community have increased slightly,” said Andrew Robert, County of Simcoe Paramedic Services Director and Chief.

In a written statement to Barrie 360, Robert said all departments and operations at the County of Simcoe have a detailed continuity of operations plan (COOP), and we are currently reviewing both short-term and long term needs and opportunities within our plans.

“Our paramedics, supervisors, and logistics have been absolutely incredible throughout this pandemic,” said Robert. “They are experiencing fatigue and exhaustion however they have been and continue to be diligent with their safety protocols and skilled and compassionate in their care.”

Robert provided a detailed list of what County of Simcoe paramedics are doing to keep themselves and the public safe while continuing to deliver care to the communities they serve.

Preventative Measures:

·        With respect to the ongoing evolution of COVID in our communities. protocols include isolation away from work for symptomatic or COVID +ve staff.

·        Internal contact tracing by infection control specialists and our safety officer ensures that any potential workplace contacts are followed up quickly and testing is undertaken to stem any further spread within the workplace. On top of our mandatory vaccination policy, we have robust PPE requirements in the workplace inclusive of full time masking in our stations and ambulances as well as in the presence of patients. Through some staffing reassignments within our logistics area, enhanced cleaning protocols for stations and ambulances are in place and hand sanitization stations are plentiful.  Since the beginning of the pandemic staff have been required to undertake screening including temperature checks prior to each shift.

·        Our Peer support team is advised of those on isolation to provide support as may be needed.

·        Some efforts to support / protect staff and avoid any delays in getting them back to work include internal vaccination programs for influenza and COVID as well as internal testing.

Proactive strategies to maintain staffing levels:

·        Cancellation of activities such as training and meetings when possible

·        Reassignment of qualified staff out of administrative and training roles into the front line

·        Operationally, in order to maximize effectiveness in the field our supervisory and leadership staff have been working hard with the hospitals to facilitate timely transfer of care in order to free up our crews.  

·        Greater use overtime to fill shifts and address shift over-run.

·        Recruitment is currently underway to bring in more paramedic and logistics staff to provide further assistance

·        Assessing the potential need for corporate redeployment if necessary to admin or logistical roles should staffing levels reach a level of urgency in the coming weeks (as per existing corporate COOP plans)

During this time it is important to remind residents that 9-1-1 should only be used in the case of an emergency. If you are looking for other community supports or your matter is not urgent please utilize other available resources such as 2-1-1. If we all take steps to alleviate pressures on our healthcare system, it will free up vital resources for those in critical need.