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November 3, 1999, Burnaby, BCA006d00620075lance Paramedics and 911 emergency dispatchers, all members of CUPE Local 873 are once again raising concerns over the state of emergency services in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

Another weekend in which ambulances waited for hours while hospital staff scrambled for beds was only exacerbated by the continued Code Red situation at the E-Comm Centre where staff shortages make it necessary for the agency to put 911 calls on hold pending the completion of other calls.

“The situation in the Lower Mainland is dangerously serious,” says John Strohmaier, president of CUPE Local 873. “Ambulances and Paramedics being tied up in hospitals for more than five hours because of a shortage of beds means that others who require ambulance services have to sometimes wait for long periods of time.”

According to Strohmaier, needless deaths can result from these delays. “In situations where mere seconds can mean the difference between life, death or permanent disability avoidable delays both in processing emergency calls and clearing paramedics from emergency wards are absolutely unacceptable.”

“A coroner’s report from two years back led to a directive from the Ministry of Health that the situation of ambulance paramedics attending to patients in emergency wards is untenable.” said Strohmaier, “Yet two years have passed and nothing has been done about the emergency backlogs and nothing has been done about additional ambulance staff and vehicles to ensure that the effects of dangerous and lengthy waits are minimized.”

Meanwhile, at the Vancouver-based E-Comm Centre staff shortages and serious equipment failures cannot deal with the volume of calls being received.

“When a paramedic dispatcher has to wait for one minute and forty seconds to have a call answered by the 911 centre imagine what is happening in the public.”

The Government of British Columbia, in particular the Minister of Health and the Attorney General, must take the situation seriously,” said Strohmaier, “put the needed thinking and resources into the system now. If a major emergency occurs in the Lower Mainland we simply won’t be able to handle it.”

Ambulance Paramedics of BC, CUPE Local 873, represent ambulance paramedics and emergency dispatchers in communities right across the province of British Columbia.

Information: John Strohmaier, President, CUPE Local 873 (604) 728-2742

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