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February 13, 2002 (Perth-Andover) Striking ambulance workers in Perth-Andover are extremely concerned that the safety of community members is being put in jeopardy by the Southern Victoria Ambulance Service. The workers, all qualified EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and members of CUPE 4226, are asking the province to take action before it is too late.

In Victoria County, there could soon be little difference between an ambulance and a hearse, said Ryan Dickinson, of CUPE 4226. Our ambulance service is being operated at standards well below what the province recommends. Do we have to wait for someone to die before the government takes action?

Last month, the Lord government released the Report from the Premiers Health Quality Council. Chief among the areas of health care in need of major improvements was the provision of ambulance services.

Ambulance service levels need to be standardized across the province, agreed CUPE Staff Representative Gordon Black. The only way for every New Brunswicker to be able to count on reliable, consistent ambulance service is for the Lord government to put an end to private contracts.

There are currently 52 different contracts for the provision of ambulance services in New Brunswick, and no two are identical, added Gordon Black. The Health Quality Council identified this as a serious problem. Nowhere is this problem more evident than in Southern Victoria County.

A key conclusion of the Report of the Health Quality Council was that a well-developed ambulance service reduces death and the degree of illness or injury by delivering rapid and effective pre-hospital care.

The Report was highly critical of the relatively low level of training for ambulance service personnel.

In addition, the Report listed the ability of ambulance personnel to provide life-saving interventions, for instance CPR, airway management, defibrillation and oxygen, fluid and drug administration as being an important factor in determining the quality of ambulance service.

The following is a comparison of ambulance service in Victoria County with services in some of the surrounding communities:

Southern Victoria County (Perth-Andover)

More than 900 calls/year

12 hour coverage (this means that during these hours, staff are within 2 minutes of the ambulance. At other times, staff must be within 10 minutes of the ambulance)

Only one person in the ambulance needs to be a qualified EMT, and that person does not have to ride in the back with the patient

The province provided funding for a defibrillator, but if one has been purchased, is not kept in the ambulance bay and has never been used

Florenceville

750-800 calls/year

24 hour coverage, with a second ambulance staffed 8 hours/day

EMTs with Advanced Life Support Skills

They have a defibrillator and they use it

Plaster Rock

200 calls/year

12 hour coverage

Mass trousers (inflatable pants for use in treating shock victims)

EMTs with Advanced Life-Support skills

They have a defibrillator and they use it

Tobique Narrows (Native Reserve)

Only qualified EMTs staff ambulances

They have a defibrillator and they use it

Grand Falls (owned and operated by Raymond Durepos, who also runs the Southern Victoria Ambulance Service)

1000 calls/year

24 hour coverage

No defibrillator

St. Andr 0061nd St. Lo006eard

Staff are required to have skills in excess of provincial regulations

Have and use defibrillator

These comparisons demonstrate that it is not a good idea to call an ambulance in Southern Victoria County right now, said Ryan Dickinson. It also serves to highlight the inconsistencies right across the province. Every one in New Brunswick deserves to know that if they ever need an ambulance it will arrive quickly, be well-equipped and be staffed by qualified EMTs.

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For more information:

Gordon Black, (506) 461-4829

Laurie Kingston, CUPE Communications, (613) 266-1415

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