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REGINA: The Canadian Union of Public Employees says emergency and medical transportation are critical to health care delivery in Saskatchewan and must be funded, co-ordinated and provided through the public sector.

In its brief to the Department of Health, the CUPE Health Care Council commended the government for establishing the EMS Development Project, stating the current system of public and private emergency medical services is costly and ineffective.

But the Council says the scope of the projects review must be expanded to consider the potential of an entirely public EMS system.

The government prevented the review team from studying a provincially-owned EMS system, says Steve Foley, President of the CUPE Health Care Council. They review team members also told union officials they were instructed to protect the interests of the private ambulance operators.

A study, which at the outset must protect the 113 private ambulance service providers, will not achieve the best possible, most objective results, the CUPE brief states, adding its a major failure of the report.

Foley says the patchwork system currently in place has resulted in ambulance companies charging residents a base rate of $95 in one health district and $250 in another health district. Wheres the equity? asks Foley.

With fewer rural hospitals, emergency and medical transport are an essential part of our health care delivery in Saskatchewan.

We dont believe there is any role for private ambulance companies in this system, says Foley. Its simply not in the publics interest to allow private operators to profit from medical emergencies.

CUPE believes that the best way to provide equitable, efficient ambulance service particularly when patients are distant from an emergency ward is through an entirely public system.

Thats why we are urging Saskatchewan Health to expand the Saskatchewan EMS Development Project to study of the benefits of a fully public EMS system, explains Foley.

The CUPE Health Care Council represents 12,000 health care workers in Saskatchewan, including Emergency Medical Responders, First Responders, Clericals and emergency workers in blended positions such as Licensed Practical Nurses / Emergency Medical Technicians.

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For more information, call Steve Foley at 525-5874, extension 227