Firefighters union concerned over access to COVID-19 testing and protective supplies
TORONTO -- Some Greater Toronto Area firefighters are concerned about close contact with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They provide essential services like responding to carbon monoxide emergencies, attending medical incidents and battle blazes—and they don’t always know what they’re up against when a call comes in.
“With our job, when we go into people’s houses we don’t know what they have, what diseases they have or viruses they may be carrying, and we have to take every precaution possible,” said Peter Dyson, president of the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association, a union which represented about 200 members.
Dyson told CTV News Monday the union wants crews to have priority access to testing and more personal protective equipment (PPE) when it becomes available.
He’s also pushing for a plan for designated places firefighters can be isolated if they get exposed to the virus so they don’t bring it to their homes.
The Toronto Professional Fire Fighters' Association said Sunday more than 200 of its firefighters have gone into isolation.
Positive cases of the virus have been identified in Toronto, Mississauga and Oakville.
“We are concerned about the stockpile of PPE. Right now today, we have enough for our calls but what tomorrow brings, what next week brings, we don’t know,” Dyson said.
“We want to ensure there’s always going to be enough firefighters. We’re committed to our job.”
Dr. Tasleem Nimjee is an emergency room physician at Humber River Hospital and recommends firefighters take extra precautions during the outbreak.
“If they are going into someone’s home and they can’t maintain that six feet, two metre distance, then this individual is going to want to have appropriate PPE to protect themselves, and that would include a procedure mask, and certainly in terms of the surfaces that they’ll be contacting or the individual that they may need to be touching would be gloves as well,” Nimjee said.
Oshawa’s Fire Chief said in addition to having PPE, there is already screening during emergency calls and when firefighters arrive on location.
“If there’s any chance of anything being a positive, we are taking full precaution and we’re activating our levels of PPE and acting appropriately,” Derrick Clark said.