Part 2: Muskoka paramedic speaks candidly about lack of equipment, support & respect

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On Friday we published Part 1 of a submission from a local Muskoka paramedic and the first hand experience of being on the frontlines of a pandemic. This paramedic who wished to remain anonymous was candid about the fact that "it doesn't feel like there is much support out there, both from management, the district and the province."

We asked how local government, the level which has the closest working relationship with paramedic services, could be more helpful.

Below is part 2 of this submission.

"There’s a couple of ways local government can better support paramedics.

First, our local MPP should support changes in legislation making Paramedics an essential service in Ontario. This designation will further protect the careers of paramedics and bring us in line with the protections shared with fire and police. Our MPP should immediately:

1. Change the Ambulance Services Collective-Bargaining Act (ASCBA) language from 75% to 100% essential

2. Declare that “paramedics” are essential under Ontario Regulation 50/20

3. Add “paramedics” to Ontario's List of Essential Services pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act

We ask that our MPP please table this critical issue in the Ontario Legislature and repeal the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act to be replaced with legislation that makes paramedics 100% essential to every community in Ontario.

Second, there’s more the District could do to support paramedics. Often in the eyes of the district we are seen as a cost burden and during contract negotiations, they’re constantly looking to cut costs. While we all understand the need for fiscal responsibility, we still need to have the tools necessary to do our job in a modern progressive way that is in line with other services in the province. I went the first two years here without a uniform winter jacket. Imagine a snowmobile accident where the paramedic gets hypothermia while tending to their patient. They gave us old, torn, thin winter jackets with another services crest on the shoulders. Many new hires don’t have personal issue helmets (required by government regulations) and instead have to share one helmet between the lot of them. We are one of the only services in the province who do not have GPS systems in our ambulances, and instead dispatch gives us a map page and expects up to search through an outdated ministry of health map book. Because this is ridiculous, most medics use their smartphone maps at their own expense to navigate their way to a medical emergency.

I feel if more members of the public realized that our government doesn’t consider paramedics as an essential service, and that we’re speeding to your emergency using our own cellphones and data plans, the provincial and local governments would be more likely to implement changes that support paramedics in their mission to protect and serve their communities.

These challenges aren’t about wages, benefits, or money of any kind. It’s about paramedics getting the respect that a vital medical professional service deserves, and it’s about providing paramedics with the tools they need to do their job.

I appreciate the opportunity to voice some opinions, for the option to remain anonymous for the purpose of speaking candidly."

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