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The head of Winnipeg’s firefighters’ union has issued a public apology for his previous call to let firefighters and paramedics operate in "silos" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alex Forrest, president of United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, posted an apology on Facebook Thursday. The statement refers to a March 23 letter Forrest sent to Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) Chief John Lane and Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen, which was also posted on Facebook and Twitter.
In that letter, Forrest called for WFPS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure by reallocating some fire-paramedic stations to serve only fire-rescue emergencies and restricting others to focus on non-virus-related emergency medical service.
He also said ambulances that transport patients with flu-like or coronavirus symptoms should be moved out of fire-paramedic stations and placed at assessment centres or medical facilities instead.
Forrest’s Thursday statement expressed regret for those comments.
"On reflection, I realize the letter may have given the wrong message," it states. "I regret this and apologize for any misunderstanding. To be clear, my statement did not call for an all-out separation of our integrated services, but rather to give consideration to practices that might minimize unnecessary exposures," wrote Forrest.
The union leader was expected to attend a disciplinary hearing over the same letter, according to a notice previously obtained by the Free Press. He declined to answer whether that hearing has occurred or provide other comments on the matter on Thursday.
The notice said the hearing would deal with allegations that Forrest violated a city/union agreement relating to respectful workplace rules through his March 23 letter.
The WFPS has consistently stressed that procedures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including patient screening and ambulance disinfection.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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