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Lethbridge Worried that a shift to provincial jurisdiction could spell trouble for ambulance services, paramedics from both Calgary and Edmonton met today to plan a coordinated campaign. The paramedics are in Lethbridge for CUPE Albertas annual convention.

While it is positive that the province has recognized that we play an important role in the delivery of health care services, our politicians are ignoring the essential role we play as part of the emergency response team in the community, said Bruce Robb, president of CUPE Local 3421, Calgary Paramedics. In fact, because we are a municipal service we have served as an important watchdog for health care accountability pointing out when hospital bed shortages result in long waits for patients in emergency rooms, he added.

Randy Littlechild of Edmonton agrees. Our budgets at the municipal level are transparent and directly accountable to the people of our community. If we get swallowed by regional health services, the public will lose its direct input into ensuring that our service is funded adequately to meet their needs, he said. Littlechild is the president of CUPE Local 3197, Edmonton Paramedics.

Both are skeptical that money announced in Wednesdays provincial budget will be sufficient to fund ambulance services in Calgary and Edmonton to their current excellent level of service. Ambulance services in Calgary cost $19.6 million per year and in Edmonton the tab is approximately $10 million. $55 million per year for the entire province is simply not enough to ensure safety and reliability, said Robb.

What the public really needs from our government is a commitment to fund services to a level that ensures we have the staff and the vehicles to respond to emergencies. That does not mean the province is in the best situation to take ownership, said Littlechild. We are directly coordinated with firefighters and police in both cities for the seamless protection of the people in our communities, he added.

It is essential that the public know the facts and the issues before the province makes any shift in ownership. So as the front line service providers we are going to take the issues directly to the public, said Robb.

Both CUPE Presidents point out that they have yet to receive any acknowledgement from the Minister of Health to their request to meet over this issue over a month ago.

It appears the provincial government is not interested in listening to us, in the same way they have not listened to municipal leaders. Since we are heading into a provincial election, perhaps they will listen to the public, said Littlechild.

The CUPE paramedics campaign will include advertising and close work with municipal politicians over the coming days and weeks.

CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPEs 26,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit our CUPE websites for more information and www.cupealberta.ab.ca

For further information:
Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications
(780) 288-1230 (cell)