Members of Boston’s EMS union are blasting Faulkner Hospital for not properly informing paramedics of coronavirus testing that took place in their sub-station, leaving their workplace possibly contaminated, a letter obtained by the Herald alleges.
The flare-up comes as state health officials on Saturday reported five new cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts, bringing the total to 13 cases.
“The disrespect this shows is outrageous, we are willingly putting ourselves on the front line of this crisis,” said Boston Emergency Medical Services-Boston Police Patrolman’s Association Union President Michael MacNeil.
Sixty people who attended a recent biotech conference in Boston were sent to Brigham and Women’s Hospital late Friday for testing for the coronavirus, with some also going to Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain.
MacNeil said paramedics and EMTs based at Faulkner were not informed testing would be taking place and soon found their sub-station — where their bunk room, equipment and supplies are located — surrounded by people in masks and gowns.
“We have to be protected and the only way we can do that is if we receive fair notice to do so,” said MacNeil. “Everything is being potentially contaminated except for the practitioners prepared for it.”
MacNeil said the union reached out to staff at Faulkner Hospital to voice their concerns but no changes were made, which prompted BEMS-BPPA to send a letter to the Boston Public Health Commission on Saturday.
“We demand that BPHC address this failure with the Faulkner, so that future mistakes can be avoided,” the letter reads.
Boston EMS Chief Jim Hooley said the EMTs were probably caught off-guard when they noticed officials starting to set up testing. He said a shift commander was sent out to Faulkner.
Hooley said if communication arises as an issue, it can be quickly taken care of.
BPHC said in a statement, “Boston EMS continues to do everything in its power to protect our EMTs and Paramedics who work tirelessly to save lives in Boston every day. Boston EMS’ first and primary concern, is the health and safety of our personnel.”
BPHC Command staff are onsite at hospitals in the instance of screening or testing for coronavirus, as was protocol on Friday.
A spokesman at Faulkner Hospital said its infection control team has been in contact with appropriate agencies in regard to testing.
Cases of coronavirus in the Bay State continue to climb.
Dr. Barry Kitch, chief medical officer at Emerson Hospital in Concord, said in a statement that a hospital patient who recently traveled abroad tested positive for the virus and there was no known exposure to others. The patient is now home under quarantine, Kitch’s statement said.
A spokesman for Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield said one of its patients, an older man from Berkshire County, also tested positive for coronavirus and is in stable condition.
The patient originally did not meet Centers for Disease Control criteria for testing, but was finally tested after the agency expanded its testing limits on Friday.
Across the nation, coronavirus deaths rose to 19 with the Washington state Department of Health announcing two additional deaths on Saturday. The number of U.S. coronavirus cases has swelled to about 400, with cases in about half of the states.
Cases around the globe have surged to nearly 102,200 in 94 total countries. More than 3,400 people have died.