Ontario paramedics are professionals with a mandate to save lives. Today, at a rally in front of the Toronto General Hospital emergency entrance, paramedics said they want political parties vying for election this October to pay more attention to several key issues jeopardizing emergency medical services (EMS): too few paramedics and ambulances, too few hospital beds and the use of untrained personnel.
Province-wide call volume continues to grow at the same time that ambulance and paramedic shortages are putting new stresses on Ontario’s emergency services. More than 18,000 hospital beds have been cut and bed occupancy rates are exceptionally high, causing Ontario emergency rooms to overflow. After the election, health care funding plans suggest that these problems will get much worse.
“Any future funding cutbacks will have an impact on your health care, including paramedic services which are already stretched. We are urging voters to consider this carefully when they vote—to ask their local candidate to commit to no cutbacks in health care services and that only fully-qualified paramedics be used to provide emergency medical services,” said Sandra Hynds, a GTA Advanced Care Paramedic.
Paramedics undergo extensive training and certification to ensure quick intervention to treat and stabilize people in crisis at the scene and to get them to hospital for further care. In the past, the former Conservative government, which included current leader Tim Hudak, replaced highly-skilled paramedics with less-skilled staff in order to cut emergency service costs.
“We’re concerned that this ill-conceived kind of cost-cutting could happen again. Instead of bringing on more fully- qualified paramedics, a new government may try to rely on less-qualified responders. Replacing highly- skilled paramedics is ill-conceived cost-cutting and a threat to the quality of our health care system,” said Hynds.
While the province funds almost all hospital expenses, they only pay 50 per cent of approved EMS costs. The other 50 per cent is paid for by municipalities. In order to maintain a level of needed services, municipalities have to increase funding in order to pick up the slack. Earlier this year, Hamilton had to increase funding another $833,000 for more ambulances and paramedics to deal with chronic ambulance shortages.
“The care and safety of Ontarians is being compromised. Ambulances are routinely pulled off the street while they wait to offload patients at backlogged emergency rooms and are unavailable to respond to 911 calls,” says Hynds.
Offload delays remain a primary public safety challenge for many Ontario municipalities. This is the case in the Niagara region, where offload delays are up 68 per cent in the last few years. In London, ambulances with patients waited outside ERs for more than 685 hours last March. That’s an average of one paramedic crew unavailable for emergencies for every hour each day that month. “The more time paramedics are waiting to offload patients, the less they are able to respond to calls in the community,” said Hynds.
Paramedics and other EMS workers who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are attending a two-day conference at the Hyatt Hotel (King St.) in Toronto on September 19 and 20.
For more information please contact:
GTA, Advanced Care Paramedic; Chair, Ambulance CommitteeOf the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario