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Montreal paramedics and firefighters respond to allegation they don’t take PPE seriously

Click to play video 'Quebec first responders insist they take PPE seriously' Quebec first responders insist they take PPE seriously
WATCH: Are first responders taking PPE seriously? Some health-care workers have said they're not. – Jun 17, 2020

Urgences Santé and the Montreal Fire Department have responded to an allegation made earlier this week by a former worker at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte St-Luc. The worker, who Global News has agreed to not identify, said even after alerting his supervisors, little was done to enforce PPE protocol.

“It was very shocking to me that there were so many staff there that just didn’t care,” said the worker, who was in charge of enforcing safety protocols.   

“The most backlash I got was from the first responders, from the firefighters, the ambulance (workers),” he added.

According to Urgences Santé, 32 paramedics and staff have contracted the virus, but none are currently hospitalized and just a handful are still on leave. 

READ MORE: Deceased resident’s family and former Maimonides staff outraged over outbreak

“We’re pretty happy about that,” said Urgences Santé spokesperson Sylvain Lafrance, who also noted that he’s surprised by the recent allegation about paramedics failing to follow the rules in the Côte St-Luc facility. 

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“Our paramedics have been (and) are protected from head to toe, they have their N95 masks,” he said. “If they’re not using that mask they’re using the P100 masks, we are using goggles, face shields, gowns and our gloves.”

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Some paramedics have reported that different PPE protocols in different facilities have caused conflict.  

“It’s a touchy subject, we have heard several incidents where certain establishments weren’t able to have the right amount (of PPE),” said Lafrance. 

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According to a spokesperson for the Montreal Fire Department, PPE checks will now take place, following the allegation: “the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal will proceed with a verification of (PPE) use to avoid all possible community contamination during emergency interventions between firefighters and citizens,” said Anik de Repentigny from the City of Montreal’s communications department.

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The Montreal Firefighters’ Association was also taken aback by the claim of PPE violations, since the city’s 2,400 full-time firefighters stopped responding to all medical emergencies in mid-March.  

READ MORE: Quebec ambulance paramedic risking his to save others amid coronavirus pandemic

The union’s president admits they could have been called to the long-term care facility to respond to a fire alarm but insist they always wear the necessary safety equipment.

“That required equipment can vary depending on the type of intervention,” said Chris Ross, president of the Montreal Firefighters’ Association, adding that they “treat all interventions with a possibility of COVID-19.”

The local health board that oversees the Maimonides would not confirm whether their human resources department had received complaints. “Our policy, which we enforce, is that all staff, including paramedics, must wear the necessary protective equipment,” said Lauren Schwartz, communications officer at the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. “There is a process in place for anyone who refuses to follow PPE protocol.”