Unifor salutes the exceptional courage and compassion of all paramedics on occasion of Paramedic Services Week, being recognized from May 22 to May 28, 2016. Paramedics, as emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, bring tremendous courage and dedication, skill, commitment, care and compassion to their jobs as first responders. Paramedics are the highest medical authority on all pre-hospital medical emergencies and are frequently called upon to perform lifesaving skills from the point of patient contact until the transfer of care at a receiving medical facility.
Canadians rely on paramedics at times of great tragedy. These women and men often place themselves in considerable danger and witness traumatic situations in their roles as first responders. Unifor applauds the growing number of provinces, including Ontario, that have recently adopted presumptive legislation recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst paramedics and other first responders as an occupational disease. This is a necessary first step to recognizing that PTSD affects many other workers and workplaces. Other provinces should follow their lead.
Unifor also calls on the Government of Ontario to conduct a full investigation into the root causes of the accident that led to the deaths of Unifor members Paramedic Chris Snowball, 38, and Paramedic Dustin Dagenais, 34. The two men - both husbands and fathers - died alongside the pilots in an ORNGE air ambulance helicopter crash near Moosonee in 2013. The Province of Ontario needs to ensure paramedics receive our full support with the proper equipment and training in light of the dangerous conditions in which they work. Since 1988, 39 Canadian paramedics have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Unifor continues to advocate for top quality emergency medical services, performed by appropriately trained and educated paramedics. Whether land or air, an efficient and effective Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system requires a collegial and rational distribution of work among first responders, including firefighters and police. Recent proposals suggesting first responders with limited training perform critical medical interventions currently performed by certified and experienced paramedics on a daily basis raise possible risks in delivering quality health services and potential cost increases and inefficiencies.
Unifor members at the 2016 Health Care Conference generously responded to the on-line funding campaign of Jennifer Cripton, a paramedic represented by Unifor at Elgin Medavie raising funds to purchase and transport an ambulance to Nicaragua. Jennifer serves as an international volunteer with GlobalMedic and Operation Nicaragua. Her fundraising goal was quickly reached through the combined donations of members and pledges from Unifor Locals and the national union in appreciation for her initiative to make a difference in solidarity with others.
Unifor stands in unity and respect during Paramedic Services Week with all paramedics and remains committed to ensuring fair and equitable terms and conditions of employment in recognition of not only their care and compassion, but also the tremendous courage and dedication, skill and commitment in their service to the health of Canadians.