TORONTO, ON – In an uncommon show of opposition to changes to paramedic pre-hospital medical care, dozens of paramedics from several communities are protesting at the Ontario Legislature tomorrow (Tuesday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m.) amendments to the Ambulance Act they believe will hurt patients needing emergency medical care. The government plans third and final reading of the Bill on Tuesday.
“Only under exceptional circumstances do we come out, stand on the steps of the Legislature to urge government not to make delivery changes that we believe will put Ontarians lives at risk,” says Jason Fraser, a paramedic and chair of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario Ambulance Committee (CACO).
Those changes include opening the door to an expensive parallel fire department-based emergency paramedical system. “This is happening without adequate regulatory and managerial oversight, instead of moving resources to our existing ambulance-based paramedic services, which are less costly than fire departments to run and have several levels of quality assurance for patients. It is not an exaggeration to say the provincial government is courting death and disaster with these changes to the Ambulance Act,” Fraser says.
Fraser will be among other CUPE paramedics from Ottawa, Toronto, Durham, York, Peterborough, Belleville, and Perth and Huron counties, protesting the Ambulance Act changes in Bill 160, which is still not law, but going into its third reading and final vote, tomorrow.
Over the last several years, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) has pressured the provincial Liberals to expand the role of firefighters into emergency medical care. Some of the amendments to the Ambulance Act that will be made through Bill 160, will facilitate this expansion, even though oversight of fire for emergency medical services is completely absent.
CUPE, as the representative of the majority of paramedics (over 5,000) in Ontario, has consistently opposed firefighter proposals to dilute the paramedic status as this raises serious issues of quality and cost of care.
Bill 160 is extensive, permissive and complex legislation that has received “very little public scrutiny. Most Ontarians don’t even know these changes are happening,” says Fraser. “But if passed, this Bill will affect big changes we feel will be negative for patient outcomes and cost municipalities more for emergency medical services. We engaged in discussions with this government for more than two years urging them not to go forward with them. We are not alone in flagging concerns, making constructive amendments to the government-proposed Bill, and, unfortunately, being ignored.”
Ontario municipalities and ambulance paramedic services chiefs have also not supported aspects of the changes proposed in Bill 160.
For more information, please contact:
Stella Yeadon, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Communications, 416-559-9300