London fire, ambulance services feeling staffing fallout of COVID-19 surge

·2 min read

As Omicron surges across Ontario, two of the London-area's emergency services are grappling with employees off work due to COVID-19.

The Middlesex-London Paramedic Service says 26 paramedics are temporarily off work after testing positive for the virus or coming into close contact with it.

Seventeen workers are deemed high risk, and eight were infected as of Thursday, paramedic service Chief Neal Roberts said.

“This has placed additional burdens on the service; however, paramedic operations remain stable,” he wrote in an email.

The paramedic service is working with the Middlesex London Health Unit to monitor the situation and seek advice as needed, Neal said.

Friday, the London fire department reported eight infections among its more than 400 staff.

Officials said they could not share the number of self-isolating people, due to recent changes in provincial public health rules that cut the isolation period from 10 to five days for fully vaccinated people and those under age 12.

That number, however, “has (been) greatly reduced” since the new rule was announced Thursday, London fire Chief Lori Hamer said.

The fire department dealt with the worst of the Omicron-fuelled wave of COVID-19 on Christmas Day, when it was forced to adopt a “quarantine at work process as a last resort,” Hamer wrote.

That meant three firefighters who came in close contact with a positive case were required to work that day to ensure essential services could run, she added.

“Since then, we have not had to implement the same process, and don’t anticipate that it will be required heading into the weekend,” Hamer said.

The fire service consulted with the area public health office before taking the step it did.

A spokesperson for London police would not provide the number of COVID-19 infections or isolations within the department, but said the force is following provincial and area health guidelines.

The infections come as the London area broke its daily case record for the seventh time since Dec. 22, with the health unit reporting 638 new infections but no additional deaths Friday.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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