Maintaining long-term, top quality emergency medical response for the residents of Chatham-Kent must be the top priority for the Mayor and council, said Jeff Van Pelt, from the Ontario Paramedics Working Group, at an info picket today outside the Chatham-Kent Municipal Building.

Organized by local paramedics, represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), because of significant concerns over a proposal to blend paramedic and fire services that is coming to council for debate on June 27th, the info picket aimed to raise community awareness of this critical issue. Local paramedics were joined by colleagues from communities across the province who share concerns about the proposed model that has proven not to work in other jurisdictions.

As professionally trained paramedics our only job is to ensure you receive the highest level of care in the safest way possible and get you to the emergency department quickly,” said Chris Stolte, Executive Board Member for SEIU. “We also happen to provide fiscally responsible Emergency Medical Service, at half the cost of Fire Services, with a significantly higher call volume.”

Fire vehicle costs per hour of operation are 50 per cent higher than costs of ambulance service. Putting one fire vehicle in operation for a year (24/7) costs approximately $900,000.00 more than an ambulance. 

“The role of fire fighters and paramedics are very different. The proposal going before council will create inefficiencies in the system and drive up cost significantly for the municipality. This threatens the long-term viability of maintaining top level emergency medical response,” said Van Pelt. “Our number one goal is to make sure everyone has access to top-quality emergency medical treatment if they find themselves in the scary position of needing it. This exists now and we want to make sure it stays that way.”

The Ontario Paramedics Working Group is made up of paramedics from communities around the province represented by CUPE, OPSEU, SEIU and UNIFOR. The group works to share best practises and problem solve sector concerns.

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with more than 250,000 members providing quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.