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February 8, 2002

VANCOUVER Planned government cuts and the elimination of paramedic positions at the B.C. Ambulance Service will put patients lives at risk, ambulance paramedics warned today.

The government admits that it expects to close both hospitals and emergency wards, CUPE Local 873 provincial president John Strohmaier said. So an effective ambulance service is more critical than ever to patients lives.

Paramedics are deeply concerned that the closures will put tremendous pressure on the service and will seriously compromise paramedics ability to deliver the emergency care that British Columbians have a right to expect.

We fear the proposed closures will leave communities without ambulance service as paramedics are forced to travel greater distances for patients to receive emergency treatment, Strohmaier said. Closures coupled with lengthy response times mean a serious risk of more severe injuries or even unnecessary deaths.

The government has said it must trim about $13 million from the ambulance service budget in the next fiscal year. And the health services ministrys service has outlined plans to eliminate the ambulance services non-emergency transfer functions as well as 37 paramedic positions.

But a recent study by the Department of Cardiology at the University of Glasgow concluded that reducing ambulance response times to five minutes could almost double the survival rate for cardiac arrests not witnessed by ambulance crews.

With research like this, why would the government introduce initiatives that will put even greater pressure on our ambulance service? Strohmaier asked. Why would anyone want to take away perhaps your last chance at life?

We have spent years building our provincial ambulance service. Why would we throw that away?


Contact: John Strohmaier, cell 604-728-2741 or 604-273-5722; Bill Tieleman, cell 604-209-8775 or 604-844-7827.

Opeiu 491 RVdn g: comm./pr/L873 feb 8 02