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Corrections, fire department in talks to help fight COVID-19 at Saskatoon jail

Chief Morgan Hackl said firefighters and primary care paramedics will assist medical staff at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre with wellness checks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Correctional Services of Canada

Talks have started between the province and Saskatoon Fire Department about providing future medical support to fight an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Saskatoon jail.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety said talks are in the very early stages. Noel Busse says there are no timelines in place for when this may take place, calling it a proactive measure in the ongoing fight against the outbreak at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.

Read more: Nearly 100 Saskatoon jail inmates and staff diagnosed with COVID-19

An outbreak was declared at the centre on Nov. 17. Nearly 160 inmates and more than 50 staff have tested positive for COVID-19.  As of Dec. 18, there were 58 inmates and 19 staff with active cases of COVID-19.

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In duelling statements Friday afternoon, the City of Saskatoon initially said firefighters and primary care paramedics would be providing support to the jail to backfill for a drop in registered nurses who need to be in isolation due to COVID-19.

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It later issued a clarification saying talks were ongoing.

Fire chief Morgan Hackl said talks are still underway as to how many officers will be deployed to help, and when the work will start.

“This would involve regular wellness checks on inmates, vitals, and also if required we could provide [COVID-19] swab testing for people,” he explained.

Hackl said this initiative could serve as a pilot model if firefighters are asked to help other organizations, such as care homes, down the line.

-With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

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