Shortage of masks preventing approximately 30 Ottawa paramedics from working with patients
OTTAWA -- Nearly three dozen Ottawa paramedics have been reassigned to duties that don't involve patient care because the City can't get enough properly fitting masks for them.
General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services Anthony Di Monte told reporters on Friday all paramedics are equipped with N95 masks--even before the COVID-19 pandemic--but each mask must be fit-tested and there are some members who can't use the standard model.
"It has to fit your particular face and seal appropriately," Di Monte said. "We always have, because the physiology of each of us is different, a certain number of people that can't get a complete fit and there's approximately 30 of our 700 paramedics who have to use a different one."
Di Monte said the vast majority of paramedics use the 3M 1805 model. The ones who can't use the 1805 have to use the 3M 1870+ model mask; however, the 1870+ is produced in smaller quantities and has become harder to obtain because of the pandemic.
"I heard a physician give an example this morning: if you have size 14 feet, it's difficult to find those kinds of shoes. The same with these masks," he said. "We don't have 'em."
Di Monte said, as soon as they realized they were running out of the masks, the service began looking at other options such as encapsulated respirators, but that requires different training to ensure each paramedic uses the new masks properly.
"In the interim, those 30 paramedics are assigned to other functions because they can't do patient care functions or we'd be putting them at risk," he said. "We're continuing to work to try to get the ones that they would require, but we're not waiting for that to happen in the market. They'll get training for full-face respirators and then they'll be able to return to patient-care activities.
The encapsulated respirators, also known as Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR), are full-face covering masks with hoods that connected to a battery-powered air purifier.