CUPE Local 1764, which represents paramedics in Durham, Ontario is calling on regional political leadership to join forces in calling for a greater investment in emergency health services. The local represents about 320 paramedics in Durham Region recently shared with Durham Region councillors a report that definitively shows the disparity between call volume and ambulance coverage in the area.
“Underinvestment in paramedic services creates chronic ambulance shortages in Durham,” said Darryl Eaton, CUPE 1764 paramedic member, and report author. “Call volume has risen 42 per cent since 2014, while total paramedic and vehicle hours of service have not come close to keeping pace. Each year it’s becoming more routine for Durham Region to be without ambulance coverage when the system is at peak stress, and that is very dangerous.”
Eaton and Kristie Osmond-Jones, President of Local 1764, acknowledged the Region added new ambulances to its fleet last year and will add one more that will come into service in the summer of 2020. “We are glad the Region’s recent budget includes some improvements,” said Osmond-Jones. “But it is not enough to meet escalating demand. Based on recent years and current trends, we anticipate call volume will continue to rise in 2020. We call on Durham Regional Council to work with us to secure more resources so that Durham residents can be sure there will always be an ambulance available when they need one.”
Osmond-Jones stressed the union’s wish to work with the Council’s Health and Social Services Committee to advocate for enhanced provincial ambulance funding. “We hope Regional Chair John Henry will want to work together, as allies, to press the province to adequately fund municipal ambulance services,” she said. “Public safety and paramedic safety are our main priorities. The public is not served well by ambulance shortages, or paramedics who go 12 hours without a break.”
In his report, Eaton also detailed the impact of chronic shortages on paramedic health. “We know there is a cost to constantly running without an adequate number of bodies. It comes in the form of stress and illness. In 2019 alone, Workers’ Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims cost Durham Region $1.29 million. We anticipate that the number will continue to rise, unless we invest properly in fully staffing paramedic services.”
The full report can be found at: http://cupe1764.ca/durhamparamedicservicesreport/