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Sask. paramedics call for changes to Ambulance Act to cope with increased workload, pressures

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Saskatchewan paramedics are calling for the province’s Ambulance Act to be updated – as the first responders claim their profession is the last to be looked at when addressing health care issues.

Representatives for paramedics across the province attended the legislature on Tuesday to share their concerns.

“We are an important piece of health. We just want to be seen that way so it’s coming here telling our stories,” said Paul Hills, the president of the Saskatoon Paramedic Association.

Hills said that emergencies trump employment standards and it’s taking a toll on paramedics.

Calls for revising the Ambulance Act are rising.

“911, my job is to answer 911. Whenever someone calls I respond to that,” Hills explained. “So that’s an emergency for someone. That might trump my ability to get off on time to see my family, that might even affect my ability to have a meal break throughout the day. We have paramedics in the province going twelve hours without time off task.”

Another major concern for paramedics is workload.

“Just this weekend when I was working, there were six, seven, eight calls waiting in the cue while we’re also sitting in the hospital for three, four, five, six, seven hours,” Hills said. “In my 36 hours working this weekend alone – I personally was looking after patients for about 27 of those hours in the hallway.”

Saskatoon is not alone with its concerns. Severe issues also exist in Regina, according to EMS logs obtained by the Saskatchewan NDP through Freedom of Information requests.

Opposition MLA Matt Love read several logs to reporters following question period. One log from Sept. 30 revealed that eight of nine available ambulances were tied up at the city’s two hospitals for an extended period of time.

“From September 30th, [I] quote, ‘Old bad, long as eight hours at one point. Six of my nine units were tied up at the General. Six of nine, two more tied up at Pasqua, eight of nine units tied up.”

Health Minister Everett Hindley says that help for paramedics is on the way.

“In February, we announced $2.4 million for 24.5 full time equivalent paramedic positions here in the City of Regina to staff two additional ambulances and two additional paramedic response units,” he said during question period.

Paramedics plan to tell their story whenever they can – including at the legislature – which holds the power to revise the Ambulance Act and makes the changes paramedics feels are necessary.

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