ANTIGONISH: An incident at StFX University over the first weekend students were welcomed back has left the school shocked, while the union representing Nova Scotia Paramedics is calling the actions thoughtless.
A Snapchat video that circulated on social media, with a MacIsaac Hall filter placed on the video that reads “Welcome to the Jungle,” the residence’s slogan, two male individuals are seen climbing on top of an Emergency Health Services (EHS) ambulance, while being cheered on by a crowd of people.
According to a statement released by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727, the situation developed while paramedics were on scene to respond to a call at the university on Sept. 5.
“What if paramedics had been in the ambulance treating a patient? Many procedures can be delicate and require a steady hand – rocking and shaking of the vehicle can cause serious harm,” they said. “What if paramedics had returned to the ambulance with a patient in critical condition and in need of immediate transport? Minutes and seconds can be the difference between life and death.”
Local 727 Business Manager and CEO Michael Nickerson told The Reporter the actions were a slap in the face to the frontline health care wokrers.
“Our paramedics have worked on the frontlines of this pandemic from day one in already less than ideal conditions – with shift overruns, missed meals, denied vacations and more, already a daily reality that’s only gotten worse,” Nickerson said. “They deserve our respect and gratitude – not to have their jobs made harder.”
The union suggested needing to wait for inconsiderate party-goers to remove themselves from the ambulance could’ve cost valuable life-saving time.
“What these people did was thoughtless, inconsiderate and potentially extremely dangerous for themselves, our paramedics and the patient they were there to help,” they said. “We sincerely hope that the university will look into this matter and discipline those involved accordingly.”
StFX Vice-President of Students Elizabeth Yeo told The Reporter she was disappointed and angry upon first learning of the video.
“Our frontline providers are providing our community with such important, valuable, essential service,” Yeo said. “And my feeling, is this is unacceptable.”
She suggested the university is being very proactive in making this a teachable moment for their students, particularly in residence.
“We will be working with, and have been, initiating discussions with the residence community around the critical importance of respect,” Yeo said. “But also the role that our frontline responders play and the importance of safety and respect for the work they’re doing as they serve our community.”
The university will continue to help students understand the harm of this type of activity and also put an effort to make sure this is not going to happen again, to get the year off on the right foot.
“We’ve done a lot of work to get ready for the students, and also to prepare them in coming to a new setting,” Yeo said. “With the freedom they have, many of our students, particularly coming from out of province, they’ve been in periods of times when their schools have been shut down, so it’s been a difficult year, and we’ve spent a lot of time to convey to our students having that respect for themselves and the community.”
She said students need to continue to choose those low-risk behaviours as they work with COVID in their community, over the long-haul.
While the university has opened an investigation, they’re still working through the footage to confirm the identity of the individuals involved.
“The university has a code of conduct that outlines the investigatory and disciplinary processes that we will follow,” Yeo said. “To be clear, if these individuals are identified as StFX students, they will be subject to our disciplinary process.”