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Paramedics to protest fire-service proposal


September 21, 2015
By The Canadian Press

Sept. 21, 2015, Ottawa - Paramedics from across Ontario will rally on Monday outside Ottawa City Hall to bring attention to a proposal they believe will compromise paramedic services' response and increase risks for the public.

The proposal by the Ontario Fire Fighters’ Association to let fire fighters with 20 hours of training respond to emergency medical calls “is like playing Russian roulette with the public,” says Jeff Van Pelt, chair of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, paramedic group.

While the trend for decades has been to increase the qualifications and skills of paramedics, the fire proposal “dramatically reverses that trend to high-calibre medical training. The consequences of an increased fire role will likely be serious,” says Van Pelt. “Paramedics treat patients in emergency situations where lives are in peril. This fire proposal amounts to a dramatic reduction in expertise. Symptom relief skills should only be provided by a fully certified paramedic, not by those who are focused on a completely different profession.”

The fire initiative, which must receive provincial government approval before it goes forward, calls for “fire-medic” instructors to undergo 16 hours of training. Upon successful completion of this training, they would train and certify a quarter of the current firefighters through a 20-hour course.

Currently Ontario paramedics are graduates of approved two-year programs and must pass ministry of health certification.

While the province needs to approve the changes fire is looking for, municipal governments that directly deliver emergency services will also be impacted by additional costs, should the changes be made.

“Governments that implement such measures must answer for this policy when problems occur,” says Brian Moloughney a City of Ottawa paramedic.

CUPE paramedic members holding their annual conference in Ottawa, this Monday and Tuesday, will attend Monday’s 12:30 p.m. rally at the Laurier and Elgin entrance to Ottawa City Hall.


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