Paramedic loss must be addressed, Liberal health critic urges

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on March 21, 2013

Paramedic Jason Cochrane shows members of the Hantsport Fire Department one way of treating a blocked airway during a CPR/First Aid training exercise he led in the Hantsport Fire Hall March 11.

Ashley Thompson

Liberal health critic Leo Glavine says the Windsor area has lost some top-notch paramedics to Western Canada.

Glavine says an Emergency Health Services supervisor told him two Windsor-based advanced care paramedics relocated to Alberta in the past year, and another is planning to leave.

“It is proving to be problematic because it is not the new entrants into the paramedic field that are leaving. It’s… the advanced care paramedics who deliver the higher level of trauma care,” theKings West MLAsaid.

Glavine says it is time to make Nova Scotia a more appealing place for paramedics to work.

“One of the driving reasons for paramedics leaving is definitely because they’re falling behind in compensation that they can find in other provinces and, of course, especially in the high-powered economy in Alberta.”

He says a good start would be to resolve issues that have left all paramedics in the province without contracts for more than two years. Paramedics are managed by Emergency Health Services (EHS) and the privately-owned Emergency Medical Care Inc.

“We’re losing top flight paramedics and we’re doing a lot of training of people that we don’t retain for our service here.”

“Nothing can replace that 20 to 25 years experience… they simply have handled so much they know the protocols like the back of their hand and that’s what they can pass on to the next generation of paramedics.”

Stacey Brown, a spokesperson for Emergency Medical Care Inc., says 26 paramedics accepted jobs in Alberta in 2012, and two recently left Windsor to explore other career opportunities.

 “Like any Nova Scotia company, competing with the higher wages offered in Alberta is a real challenge. As a result, some of our paramedics have chosen to leave Nova Scotia to work out West,” she wrote in an email to the Hants Journal.

The turnover rate for paramedics in Nova Scotia has been three per cent for the last three years, Brown said.

EHS statistics show there were 294 advanced care paramedics in Nova Scotia in 2010, 306 in 2011 and 295 in 2012.

“It can be a challenge to fill ACP roles in rural areas, however, vacancies only range between one to two at any given time,” Brown said.

Emergency Medical Care Inc. recently offered unionized paramedics, represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers,a 10.95 per cent pay increase over five years, shift premiums for nights and weekends, premium increases for senior operations paramedics and an increase in financial support for education as part of an ongoing collective bargaining process that began in September 2011.

The union members voted 98 per cent in favour of rejecting the offer.

“We are very disappointed the agreement wasn't ratified. We feel that our proposal is competitive in comparison with other healthcare agreements in Nova Scotia,” Brown said.

It has been reported that union employees are fighting for better working conditions and different pension plan options.

The Hants Journal was unable to reach union leader Terry Chapman for comment as of press time.