News creators of 2021: Anthony Di Monte leaves town hall after shepherding Ottawa’s first vaccine rollout

Article content

Anthony Di Monte has always been a paramedic first. When he retired this fall after five years at the helm of emergency and protection services for the city of Ottawa, he said his previous job was the pinnacle of his career, being chief of paramedics.

Advertising

Article content

Being a paramedic for decades, Di Monte gave an eyewitness view of history – both stomach ache and heart warming.

As a senior officer in Montreal’s paramedic service, Di Monte was one of the first to respond to the École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, the day Marc Lépine killed 14 women and injured 14 others, including 10 women, before taking his own life. He now describes it as a day Canada lost its innocence.

Di Monte was also one of the first on the scene after the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial on October 22, 2014.

And there was another side of the profession he describes by “the Swiss army knife of health care.”

He has also rubbed shoulders with leaders and coordinated the papal visit to Montreal in 1984. Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien used to refer to him as the “ambulance guy”.

Advertising

Article content

Like many paramedics, Di Monte also assisted at a number of births. After the first, in Montreal, the young paramedic mentioned in a report that he had “delivered” the child. A stern nurse later gave him a scolding that he never forgot, saying, “Young man, you must know that you did absolutely nothing. Mother gave birth to that baby. You were just there as a witness.”

That, he said with a laugh, put things in perspective.

That kind of perspective and these decades of experience helped guide him through his final task before retirement – overseeing the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines into a pandemic tired city. There was also history in the mold.

Di Monte, now 62, agreed to take on the role of head of the city’s emergency and protection department and was appointed full-time director general in 2017. He saw the opportunity as a great way to end his career and expand his horizons.

Advertising

Article content

He could not have foreseen what was to come.

During that period, he dealt with floods and tornadoes and finally the global COVID-19 pandemic.

When Ottawa declared a state of emergency in March 2020, his role came into high gear. Along with other city and public health officials, he worked around the clock, seven days a week most of the time. That penalty schedule is something his years as a paramedic had prepared him for.

“I come from that. I’ve been on call 24/7 most of my career.”

When vaccines were finally available, he monitored the unprecedented rollout.

Ottawa Public Health had valuable experience with immunization campaigns, but Di Monte said this rollout was broader “this was genuine emergency management.”

Advertising

Article content

Di Monte describes structuring the locations and logistics of the vaccination campaign as “a real military effort, strategic and technical.”

Ottawa was lucky, he said, because there was great demand in the community for vaccines as soon as they were available. But it also created frustration as the city consistently received fewer vaccines per year. per capita than other parts of the province.

Di Monte describes his frustration when he saw the daily reports on how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine each health unit in the province received. As demand in Ottawa consistently exceeded supply, it was clear that the city was not getting its share.

Mayor Jim Watson eventually publicized these concerns, and as vaccine supply increased, the great demand in the city was met. Ottawa remains one of the most vaccinated cities in Canada.

Advertising

Article content

Di Monte left his job in October and was on his way to a long-awaited retirement.

“It’s been a long race and a good race,” he said, adding that the past year “has been a bit tough.”

He recalls a moment of pride when the city ended its pandemic state of emergency in July, more than a year after its introduction.

As he prepared to leave the job, Di Monte looked forward to the rollout of vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11. While this vaccination campaign continues, Ottawa’s children are among the most vaccinated in the country.

But as the Omicron wave of the pandemic crashed over Ontario, the man who had helped guard the city through previously deadly waves of the COVID-19 pandemic was on its way to its next role: retirement.

Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Leave a Comment