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Winnipeg Firefighters Union looking for clarity on COVID-19 exposure protocol

Click to play video: 'The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19' The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19
Global's Marek Tkach reports on Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service's guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19 – Mar 2, 2020

Concerns surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are beginning to force medical organizations across the country to strengthen and clarify their protocols when it comes to dealing with a patient who may have the virus.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has guidelines to follow for treating patients displaying flu symptoms, which could be COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Canada: Here’s a timeline of cases across provinces

The union says those guidelines talk too much about prevention, though, and not enough about what to do after a firefighter comes in contact with the virus.

“What happens after the event? What are you going to do with these firefighters who are exposed? They do not want to take the coronavirus home to their families,” says Alex Forrest, the union’s president.

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Alex Forrest, the president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg. File / Global News

A memo was sent to staff by the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service last week, outlining best practices and how employees should deal with patients displaying flu symptoms.

Details for how firefighters should deal with possible exposure, though, were nowhere to be seen.

READ MORE: Canadian coronavirus cases linked to Iran rise, experts question country’s response

“How is it going to work? How is quarantine going to work? How is compensation going to assist the nurses, the firefighters, the fighter paramedics, the doctors?” Forrest continued. “These people that get exposed, there has to be proper support.

“What will be the quarantine position, what will be the procedures and how will we back-fill? Because it will be a challenge to be able to keep all of our rigs on the road.”

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The union plans to meet with city officials on Wednesday, hoping to add their concerns to the city’s policy on how first responders should deal with coming into contact with the virus.

In an statement to Global News, the city says protocols were updated on Jan. 10 for all front-line first responders, including paramedics, firefighters, and firefighter paramedics.

They continue to evolve as new information is made available, the city added.

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