Around 200 ambulance staff in the north-east have had to take time off because of Covid-19, new figures show.
Statistics obtained by the Evening Express under Freedom of Information legislation show at least 194 Scottish Ambulance Service employees in Grampian spent time off work between March and October, either through testing positive themselves or because they have been told to isolate.
The actual number could be as high as 254, although where less than five employees are affected in a month the ambulance service is not permitted to give an exact figure as it could lead to patients being identified.
The figures include paramedics, as well as all other ambulance workers in the north-east.
At least 11 of those who were off work having tested positive were paramedics – although that figure may be as high as 35 – while up to 89 had to isolate.
Up to 37 non-paramedic staff also tested positive during the period, with up to 93 having to quarantine.
Staff were most affected in the early months of the pandemic, with the highest number of absences coming in March and April – around 95 of incidents occurred in those two months alone.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The safety of our staff and patients is our top priority and our staff adhere to strict Government guidelines, including wearing the correct PPE kit, observing appropriate social distancing and rigorously following infection control procedures around vehicles and ambulance stations.
“The Scottish Ambulance Service follows the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 testing protocols for NHS employees and as such, any of our staff who are symptomatic can access testing rapidly through NHS testing procedures.
“More widely on health and wellbeing, we have developed a robust programme of support and a wide range of initiatives to help.
“Managers work closely with staff to encourage them to report any concerns about their welfare and we provide assistance through these initiatives to give staff as much support as we can to help them with any ongoing issues they may have.
“This includes access to occupational health services and professional counselling where needed.”
Aberdeen Central MSP and Scottish Government minister Kevin Stewart said: “What these figures make abundantly clear is that we all have to do absolutely everything we can to stop the spread of the virus by sticking to the rules.
“We have to protect our NHS and frontline staff so they can continue to do their vital work to keep us safe.
“These folks are out there everyday at the frontline of our fight against the virus so the very least that we can do is to play our part by following the guidance.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MSP Alexander Burnett said absences due to Covid-19 had put “pressure” on the organisation’s resources.
“These figures highlight the pressure that north-east ambulance crews have been under during the pandemic,” he said.
“The virus has further exposed stress points in a vital emergency service.”