Paramedic heroes return home after helping with COVID-19 fight in northern First Nations communities

The paramedics stationed up north pitched in to do whatever was needed to help alleviate the strain on the northern health system—whether it was to provide a COVID-19 swab test, start an IV, provide medications, or help with any medical emergencies that arose during the holidays.

Winnipeg (07 Jan. 2020) — 6 Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) Local 911 paramedics have returned home to Winnipeg after helping to fight COVID-19 outbreaks in 3 northern Manitoba First Nations communities.

Members give up time-off to assist with crisis

The Advanced Care Paramedics (ACPs) could have taken a well-deserved break from an exceptionally challenging fall that has seen them and their colleagues battling the virus in Manitoba’s capital. Instead, they spent their days off choosing to help in Wasagamack, Oxford House, and Shamattawa over the past several days, where health services continue to be strained by outbreaks.

“We’ve seen so many MGEU/NUPGE members stepping up during the pandemic and for these members to give up their time-off with their families over the holidays to help those in need, it’s yet another example of the commitment MGEU/NUPGE members have shown going above and beyond to help their fellow Manitobans through this pandemic,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky.

Clear gaps in health care system

The paramedics stationed up north pitched in to do whatever was needed to help alleviate the strain on the northern health system—whether it was to provide a COVID-19 swab test, start an IV, provide medications, or help with any medical emergencies that arose during the holidays.

"We all happen to work in Winnipeg right now, but that's not necessarily required. It just so happened that Advanced Care Paramedics (ACPs) from Winnipeg had the time and wanted to come up here and help," said MGEU Local 911 President, Ryan Woiden, in a CBC interview earlier this week. "Since we've been up here, even just such a short time, in the first 24 hours we've been extremely busy."

Expansion of community paramedicine needed

It’s not the first time ACPs have stepped up to fill in gaps in Manitoba's health care system that’s been under siege from the spread of the virus in the province. ACPs have also been very busy travelling around Manitoba and going into personal care homes to help care for ailing patients.

For years, the MGEU/NUPGE has advocated for the expansion of community paramedicine and both Gawronsky and Woiden feel that COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated, out of necessity, why it is the future.

“Community paramedicine works, and it’s been essential during this health crisis. I think the pandemic has shown why it needs to be expanded,” said Gawronsky.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE