Not doing ‘ok’

Dear editor:
This letter is to expand information released in the Fort Frances Times on Wednesday, July 24, 2002 titled “Ambulance concerns focus of meeting.”
The statement regarding qualified staffing levels, “we’re doing ok” doesn’t tell the complete story, we are not doing ok.
As of June 1, this year, Emo and Rainy River ambulance bases received funding for full-time paramedics which opened up positions for six new full-time paramedics.
These positions haven’t been filled by advanced EMCA certified paramedics. Presently they are being covered by casual staff who are still in the paramedic school for at least another year or up to three years.
Also, these casual staff have to maintain their paramedic positions as well as taking classes without being replaced at work.
The full-time paramedics greatly appreciate the extra commitment by the casual staff to try to cover these six vacant positions, vacations and time off.
Also we are not doing ok, since full-time paramedics are having difficulty getting the time they want for much needed vacations and time off this summer. Multiple times this year, paramedics have worked 18 hour shifts to make sure our community has ambulance coverage.
These problems will not be quickly or easily solved, due to the shortage of advanced EMCA’s, province-wide and especially in the north. The advanced EMCA program is two years full-time and four years part-time.
The statement relating to payscale and the fact that we have fewer calls up north compared to Toronto, “It’s not like in Toronto where they are out every five minutes on a call.”
True, Toronto has more calls as a whole, but in Fort Frances, one ambulance covering the area from Devlin to Seine River and 130 km north up Hwy. 502 will have equal or more calls in a 12 hour shift (15 calls on last Friday’s day shift). To date this year, Fort Frances has had 2000 plus calls.
In Toronto, other ambulances are quickly available for backup and the fire department always responds to life-threatening calls, which we do not have available outside of Fort Frances.
Time is spent dealing with the actual patient, completing paperwork, cleaning and restocking equipment, which in Toronto can be done before dealing with the next call. In Fort Frances, we have to respond without the opportunity to complete these tasks.
Many areas we respond to are by unpaved bush roads or no drivable roads, which Toronto doesn’t have to deal with.
Our calls can take up two hours to get to the patient; Toronto doesn’t have this problem.
As far as payscale goes, we have to be qualified and do the same job as Toronto paramedics. We have similar living costs, but we are paid substantially less.
I hope this clarifies our local situation.
John Beaton