Toronto—Nine more Ontario paramedics have been or will be suspended for refusing to get a flu shot. On January 2, the Niagara Emergency Services began suspending those paramedics who have defied provincial legislation forcing them to get a flu vaccine.
“What we see being played out is a crisis brewing in provincial emergency services. And, the lack of leadership by the Minister of Health on the issue, as we head into full-blown virus season is fuelling the crisis,” said Sid Ryan the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union that represents 5,000 paramedics and ambulance services workers across the province.
Most Ontario paramedics have complied with the mandatory flu shot, legislated in the Ontario Ambulance Act. But, said Ryan, they have done so under duress and at the risk of losing their job. Paramedics are the only health care professionals forced by law to get inoculated against the flu.
“It’s clear that the ministry knows there are not enough paramedics in the system and the mandatory flu shot is an attempt to control absenteeism. The solution is to hire more paramedics to ensure the health and safety of Ontario residents, not forcing them to get flu vaccines,” said Ryan.
Fewer than eight per cent of Toronto’s 790 paramedics have complied with the provincial legislation.
“In Toronto, ambulances are already on redirect. So far, the employer has not forced the issue of compliance. But if they do, then we have a huge problem with dozens of paramedics off the road adding to the turmoil caused by redirect situations.
“It’s time for the health minister to show leadership and direct employers not to enforce the discriminatory legislation,” said Ryan who has already scheduled a meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss proposals on how best to avert a crisis.
For more information please contact:
Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications