Toronto planning for paramedic and fire services staff shortages due to Omicron

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The City of Toronto has announced a new plan to reallocate city employees, like paramedics, to address the surge in Omicron cases and to ensure that essential services and vaccination efforts continue to run smoothly.  (Sam Nar/CBC - image credit)
The City of Toronto has announced a new plan to reallocate city employees, like paramedics, to address the surge in Omicron cases and to ensure that essential services and vaccination efforts continue to run smoothly. (Sam Nar/CBC - image credit)

Toronto has a plan to address potential staff shortages of essential employees, including paramedics and firefighters, caused by rising COVID-19 numbers.

In a Tuesday news release, the city said it would redeploy some of its employees to ensure that essential services and ongoing vaccination efforts continue to run smoothly.

The move is part of a plan to address potential staff shortages as more people are forced to stay home, isolating against the Omicron variant.

"We know this variant is causing absenteeism in all sectors and organizations as it spreads," said city manager, Chris Murray. "We are deploying our incredible Toronto Public Service to focus on ensuring that essential and critical services are maintained."

The plan means Toronto Fire Services will also be sent out for more calls that paramedics would usually attend. Paramedics are expected to spend more time in emergency rooms to help with staff shortages so firefighters will be deployed to calls where no patient or injuries have been identified.

The plan also includes reallocating other services such as dental service staff at Toronto Public Health, who will be moved to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

This is not the first time the city has redeployed staff in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Many employees were previously redeployed to similar roles in 2020 and that experience will likely ease the transition this time, the city says.

In addition to the redeployment plan, most of the city's non-essential services will also be moved to remote channels as of Jan. 4, according to the release.

Some essential services, however, will continue to operate in person, including marriage licenses, court services, and distribution of COVID-19 rapid screening kits to some businesses.

The release also explained the city will expand the use of rapid antigen testing to include services such as police, fire, paramedics, water and public health. Previously the city only used rapid tests, as legislated, in long-term care and childcare environments.

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