X-ray staff forgotten frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

X-ray staff in Canada might be the forgotten frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic

Toronto X-ray technologist, Anton Paul says the important role of X-ray staff has gone greatly unrecognized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul says the recent pay increase for healthcare workers announced by Premier Doug Ford, which includes nurses, mental health workers and paramedics, but not X-ray technologists, added ‘insult to injury’ for himself, as well as his fellow colleagues.

“We’re not looking for any financial remuneration or fringe benefits – though if it came our way we’re not going to refuse it – but not having any recognition that we’re frontline workers, that is very painful.”

Paul, who has been working at the same hospital for over 20 years, has also worked through the SARS outbreak in 2003 and says the job has always been much more than just a paycheck.

“I feel proud that I’m doing this job,” he said. “I don’t just see it as a profession where I earn my living, I get to be part of the reason many people are able to live a healthy life.”

Paul says because all COVID-19 patients require a chest X-ray, he’s one of the first to come in contact with both suspected and confirmed cases of the virus, and usually sees close to 20 symptomatic individuals each and every day. 

“Without us, they cannot decide on the patient’s treatment. It isn’t until we do the X-ray that we know how much of the lungs are affected and whether they should be put on a ventilator or be admitted.”

xray covid

A patient gets an X-ray in Toronto. Photo courtesy Anton Paul.

Paul explains that he has to get as close as six inches away from coughing patients when placing the X-ray equipment behind their back in order to get a proper diagnostic image during chest and CT scans, which can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes.

“We’re one of the first people going in and having close contact with the patient for quite a duration of time and we’re there in the room with them with limited personal protective equipment,” he said.

Paul says he already knows of one X-ray staff in Toronto that has tested positive for the virus.

“It’s pretty scary because you don't know until you have symptoms, whether you have been infected or not,” he said.

“Every fourth day, I think, ‘Okay, nothing has happened’ but then it turns into another four days and another. We’re working under pressure and we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Paul says he doesn’t blame the general public for the lack of recognition of X-ray staff as procedures and nature of their work may not be something everyone is familiar with. 

“They don’t even know that we are in very close contact with these patients and are in the same room with them for some time when we do X-rays,” he said.

“It isn’t until they come for an X-ray they realize how much we do and how much we are in contact with them.”

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