Ontario paramedics represented by CUPE are concerned with a government plan to use a private, third-party company to participate in the province’s vaccine rollout, claiming that the company will need to hire working paramedics from Ontario’s land ambulance services. CUPE, represents over 5,500 frontline paramedics and ambulance communications officers (ACOs). The union has written to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Minister of Health Christine Elliott to request a consultation, and involve representatives of the province’s paramedic workers and paramedic services.

Medavie Health Services, a private health care delivery service, has recently posted job openings for certified paramedics in Toronto, Peel and Durham Regions “to assist with mobile vaccination clinics in the province of Ontario.” Prior to learning of job postings, no notification was given to the province’s paramedic services that the province would be seeking outside involvement for mobile vaccination clinics.

“We understand that in the push to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible there’s a feeling that you need to bring in outside help. But I think the government’s plan will cause more chaos, rather than speed things up,” said Jason Fraser, frontline paramedic and chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario. “This private company is looking to hire certified paramedics, and the only place you can find those is by taking them from a land ambulance service. So rather than adding bodies, they will be taking working paramedics away from our communities’ ambulance services. I don’t think anyone wants that.”

Instead, CUPE is calling on the government to involve paramedic services and workers in developing a plan that utilizes the province’s existing resources and doesn’t create competition for jobs between the government and a private company.

“Whether it is taking on new tasks or sharing resources between jurisdictions, our paramedics have already shown during this pandemic that they can be flexible and come up with innovative solutions to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “The province is perfectly capable of mobilizing paramedic services to provide vaccines effectively without taking resources away from answering 911 calls. We just need the government to be a willing collaborator in this process. It is not too late to get this right.”