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HAVE A CUP OF JOE WITH JOE – Essex-Windsor EMS: One Vital Regiment Of Our Frontline Warriors
On a frigid and blustery mid-February afternoon, I had a ZOOM “Cup of Joe” chat with Bruce Krauter, Chief of Essex-Windsor Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
We discussed what the past 12 months has been like for his workforce dealing with COVID-19.
Krauter, a Windsor native and now a Leamington resident, began his career in paramedicine with Windsor Provincial Ambulance in 1983 and has worked his way through the ranks before being appointed Chief of Essex-Windsor EMS in July 2014.
He oversees our ambulance service and pre-hospital emergency medical care to nearly 400,000 residents of Essex County, Windsor and Pelee Island, providing 24/7 coverage, 365 days of the year.
In addition to a management cadre, administration, and support staff, he employs close to 300 college-trained women and men as paramedics. They work out of 12 stations throughout Windsor and Essex County (and Pelee Island) travelling each year more than 2,250,000 km in an 1,852 square kilometre area. This works out to about 404,000 on-road paramedic hours.
After assuring me he was not around for the Spanish Flu 1918 influenza pandemic, Krauter admits he is no stranger to epidemics.
Since the year 2000 he has worked through Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-1) in 2003; the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2013 and the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014.
However, he is quick to add, “None of them compared to COVID-19 because these three epidemics were all localized and had almost no effect in the Windsor and Essex region. SARS, for example, primarily affected the GTA.”
At the time of writing this article (mid-February) only eight paramedics in his workforce have tested positive for COVID-19, since it appeared in our area. None of the cases have been occupational.
Through no fault of their own, the eight were victims of community spread, as so many other innocent victims in the community have been. They all have recovered and are healthy and have returned to the workforce.
Krauter proudly states, “The fact that there has been no occupational related transmission of COVID-19 to our staff speaks highly of the tools they have been provided — the masks, the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), training and instruction, supervision, but most importantly to the staff’s dedication to putting on that PPE for every call on every shift and ensuring deep cleaning of their equipment and vehicle after every call so they are then available to respond to further calls.”
Additionally, there has been no evidence of any patient infection related to the transmission of the virus by staff, EMS equipment, or transport vehicles.
This is truly remarkable for a global virus known for its transmissibility.
The frontline paramedics’ PPE consists of different layers depending on the nature of the call they are responding to.