Toronto’s paramedics revolt against understaffing, overtime

“I’ve heard the same stories over and over again from paramedics — forced to scurry around the city their entire shift, leaving less serious calls unattended for up to an hour, because there are simply not enough ambulances on the road.”

“Level 3 paramedic Roberta Scott was so upset with what is happening, she wrote all councillors a little less than two weeks ago — and has since been threatened with disciplinary action.”

“When seconds count we’re 15 minutes away” – Level 2 paramedic Ken Horton.

The above quotes give an idea of how the problem is affecting the public, and the people in the trenches – the paramedics who are rushed off their feet by chronic understaffing, and plagued with an Emergency Medical Services heirarchy that, it would seem,  refuses to take the necessary action to remedy the problem.

Instead of going to City Council to state the facts and ask for funding for more ambulances and staff, management proposes to cope by making drastic changes to shifts and instituting staggered start-times – at the expense of the workers.

Harried staff are already working through their breaks and enduring unnecessary upset in their personal and family lives because of the stress and working hours.

One medic I knew years ago, now deceased, had a breakdown after having to cope with one subway suicide too many, and ended up working as an interdepartmental messenger.  And that was from the stress and strain the job can produce simply by its very nature.  Today’s paramedics have all the other stresses produced by understaffing to deal with, in addition to that.

According to the EMS website, “Toronto EMS is the largest municipal land ambulance service in Canada, and the sole emergency ambulance service in Toronto.”  (Emphasis added -JG).

In my opinion, one change that would help relieve the stress for EMS field workers would be for them to have their own union local, separate from CUPE Local 416 with its myriad of occupations and classifications all clamouring for attention.

The ambulance workers will be far better able to deal with management and council if they have union representation that can concentrate on their unique issues and concerns, to the exclusion of anything else.

I wish them all the very best in resolving these problems.

Jeff Goodall.

See “Levy: Paramedics issue warning” (Toronto Sun, Oct. 7th, 2012) here.

See the “Toronto Paramedics” website posting “State of Emergency” (July, 2012) here, and the Toronto Paramedics homepage here, for additional background information.

See also “Some Toronto paramedics refusing overtime” (Toronto Sun Oct. 6th) here, and 680 News coverage here.