Paramedics, as emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, bring tremendous dedication, skill and commitment 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 the receiving medical facility.
During Paramedic Services Week May 24-30, 2015, Unifor is repeating calls for strong legislation to help paramedics cope with consequences of an often traumatic job.
“We rely on paramedics in our times of greatest need,” said Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor. “These women and men often place themselves in considerable danger and witness horrific situations in their roles as first responders. We need to do better legislatively to recognize the personal impacts of their job.”
Dias repeated his call to all political parties in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to commit to swift passage of Bill 2, a private member's bill carried at first reading to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for paramedics.
Bill 2 proposes that if first responders such as police, fire fighters and paramedics suffer PTSD, the disorder would be presumed to be an occupational disease that occurred due to their employment, unless the contrary was proven to be the case.
Unifor will vigorously oppose compromising patient care through any legislative changes permitting lesser and non-trained first responders from performing critical medical interventions that experienced and highly educated paramedics already perform on a daily basis.
Unifor will also be sponsoring the Paramedic Ride, an annual four-day 500+ kilometer cycling event run by volunteer paramedics and cyclists dedicated to raising funds in support of a National Paramedic Memorial Monument which will be built in Ottawa, Ontario. Since 1988, 39 Canadian Paramedics have lost their lives in the line of duty, including Unifor members Paramedic Chris Snowball, 38, and Paramedic Dustin Dagenais, 34. The two men - both husbands and fathers - died when an ORNGE air ambulance helicopter crashed near Moosonee in 2013.
Unifor also calls for consistent and equitable early access to retirement pension benefits for paramedics as is now provided to other emergency first responders such as police officers and fire fighters. The cumulative impact of decades of emergency first response service and repeated experience of gruesome and traumatic situations has left few paramedics able to endure the physical or emotional demands of paramedicine until reaching age 65.
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 their tremendous dedication, skill and commitment to the well-being of Canadians.