Six MGEU Local 911 paramedics have returned home to Winnipeg after helping to fight COVID outbreaks in three northern Manitoba First Nations communities this week.

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 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 members have shown going above and beyond to help their fellow Manitobans through this pandemic,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky.

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 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 advance care paramedics 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."

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 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.