The United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) gave unanimous consent during its January 26 session to approve a new policy for mandatory vaccination of all paramedics assigned to Prescott-Russell Emergency Services ambulances. The new policy reverses the original policy in 2021 that required paramedics to undergo regular mandatory rapid antigen testing (RAT) two or three times a week and make regular use of personal protective equipment like face shields, masks, and gloves.
In a report to UCPR council, Marc-André Périard, emergency services director, noted that during the past month the number of rapid-anti gen tests for all paramedics within Ontario has increased to the point that keeping regional emergency services supplied with the tests is becoming difficult.
“By mandating vaccines for paramedics and reducing the amount of RAT being used for the unvaccinated,” Périard stated, “we would be able to save these RAT for staff that have been vaccinated but need to be tested as per provincial testing guidelines to ensure they are able to continue working, thus creating less strain on our human resources.”
The new policy takes effect as of January 26. All paramedics must provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, including both the original two inoculations and also the booster injection. The information will remain confidential with both the UCPR emergency services and human resources departments.
The policy also recognizes that some paramedics may not be able to get vaccinated for either medical or religious or cultural reasons. Paramedics who need an exemption from the policy for medical reasons must provide an official dated note from either a doctor or nurse-practitioner explaining their situation. Paramedics who need an exemption on the basis of religion or culture must provide a written request to the human resources director, who will review the request and consider whether or not the Ontario Human Rights Code applies to the case.
All Prescott-Russell paramedics who do not have a valid exemption must get their full vaccination by February 23. Until then they must take rapid anti-gen testing while on duty.
Anyone without full vaccination after the February 23 deadline and without a valid exemption will go on leave of absence without pay for up to 30 days. Anyone who continues to refuse mandatory vaccination after the leave of absence is over will be dismissed.