Regina (October 25, 2010) – A year after the provincial government’s own study of Saskatchewan ambulance services found too many people having to wait unsafe amounts of time for an ambulance, health care employers have taken no meaningful steps to improve the recruitment and retention of emergency medical services staff, especially in Rural Saskatchewan, the Chair of the Saskatchewan Health Sciences Negotiating Committee, Bill Fischer, told a news conference.
“The Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Review confirmed that 2,390 emergency ambulance calls in Rural Saskatchewan during 2007-2008 had failed to meet the recommended national standard of 30 minutes or less for response to an emergency call. This means an average of more than six ambulance calls a day in Rural Saskatchewan fail to reach the patient within a safe period of time,” Fischer noted.
“In the year since the release of this disturbing government report, health care employers have refused to take steps to increase ambulance service staffing or improve the recruitment and retention of staff,” Fischer added.
“In fact, employers seem determined to make matters worse. For example, at the bargaining table, health care employers have proposed that they no longer pay ambulance service staff for days when they are receiving mandatory professional training. What kind of a message does that send about the value health care employers place on these critical health care workers?” Fischer asked.
“In Rural Saskatchewan, the staffing situation has reached crisis proportions for many ambulance services and there are obvious reasons why. Ambulance crews in most rural communities work six days straight, where they are on-call for all 24 hours of each day at a rate of $4.12 per hour or less than half of the Saskatchewan Minimum Wage. They receive the normal Health Sciences contract rate only for those hours they are on an emergency call. Because they are listed as on-call for most of their work time, many of the full-time ambulance crews do not receive enough work hours in a year to qualify as full-time employees. Therefore they do not receive basic benefits such as health benefits or pension. Is it any wonder Rural Saskatchewan communities are finding it more and more difficult to recruit or retain ambulance crews?” Fischer asked.
“If the Government and health care employers hope to improve the quality of the ambulance services provided to Saskatchewan people, they should work with us to increase staffing levels, and deal with the training, recruitment and retention issues that currently plague the delivery of ambulance services across the province. We believe health care employers should be prepared to establish and enforce minimum standards for EMS staffing and response times across the province. We also believe that health care employers should be encouraging more EMS staff to take advanced training, by helping to cover time away from work and tuition costs,” Fischer added.
“There are a number of potential solutions, but one thing is clear: the status quo is not acceptable, because patients are not receiving the service they have a right to expect,” Fischer concluded.
Health Sciences is the union which represents more than three-thousand specialized health care professionals from more than thirty health care professions. Health Sciences members include: Emergency care workers like Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs); Acute care workers like Pharmacists, Perfusionists, and Respiratory Therapists; Rehab professionals like Physical Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists; and Community-based professionals like Public Health Inspectors, Psychologists and Social Workers.
For Further Information Contact:
Bill Fischer, Chair, Negotiations Committee, Saskatchewan Health Sciences