Paramedics ask fire service for Covid-19 support in NI

Paramedics have asked the fire service for support in tackling the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland.

Ambulance chiefs are braced for a wave of cases over the next fortnight which may require an emergency response and the transfer of many patients to hospital.

Interim chief fire officer Michael Graham said he was finalising proposals and added ensuring adequate protective equipment was available was his main priority.

“We have committed to working with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service colleagues to scope out this work and by the end of this week we should be in a position to communicate what this may look like.”

He told his staff: “I am fully aware that any such support relies on you volunteering for these roles.”

He also asked members planning to retire within the next six months to consider postponing their arrangements.

“I know this is a big personal and financial decision for anyone to take but I would ask that you please consider if you could stay with us for another few months to help the organisation.”

The senior officer praised the “compassion, flexibility and teamwork” displayed by his colleagues and said coronavirus was having a personal and professional impact.

“Ensuring our people are appropriately protected is my highest priority.

“Be assured that I am raising this through local government here in Northern Ireland on a daily basis and we are also trying to access other supply chains through our relationship within UK Fire and are working hard to ensure our people are prioritised for testing.

“These two areas will continue to be our focus over the next few days.”

He said socially distancing was more difficult for front line firefighters responding to an incident and there was an increased risk.

In response to the infection, some stations have been transformed into on call only and others have been amalgamated, providing additional numbers during Covid-19 absences.