Parry Sound emergency services cuts will endanger lives

PARRY SOUND, ON, Aug. 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Emergency services cuts could endanger lives in South River, Powassan, Burk's Falls and the surrounding area, warn paramedics with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

OPSEU paramedics will attend the Town of Parry Sound council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12 to protest a decision that means prolonged response times for several communities. Parry Sound district — a land mass of 10,000 km/sq, 22 municipalities and 15 unorganized townships — will have just three vehicles and 6 medics during night time hours.

"Our paramedics are standing up for Parry Sound residents. They are the experts who know first hand what it means for our community to be safe," said OPSEU Staff Representative, Sean Wilson. "Adding new services in Argyle can't be at the expense of residents' safety in other towns."

South River emergency services will be cut in half as of September 8, 2014, when four paramedics and an ambulance are moved to Argyle. As a result, neither community will have the resources to properly provide around the clock emergency services.

The intended service changes will also mean potential delays in nearby Burk's Falls and Powassan, which will have to provide back-up services. Meanwhile the planned changes will only provide partial service to Argyle, which will be without services in their community from 7 pm to 7 am.  During this time, an ambulance will have to come from Powassan or North Bay, which could lead to waiting over an hour for an ambulance to show up at the door. This in turn could mean over two hours from time a resident calls 911 to the time they arrive at the hospital.

"Paramedics in South River are being told that after a 12 hour day shift they are expected to be on call for the night shift," said Les Culp, OPSEU Local 342 paramedics' representative in Parry Sound. "We are asking that council put a stop to this now before lives are put at risk."   

Once these intended changes are implemented, paramedics in South River will be expected to work a 12 hour day shift only to return to work just six hours later. They will then complete an on-call shift for the remaining six hours of the night and remain until their shift starts the next day. Some medics will not be able to return home after shift due to the geographic size of the area. With the current shift rotation, this could mean a period time of up to 96 hours before medics return home to their families. 

Although the Parry Sound Council was aware of the impending problem in Argyle for over two years, they did not use their time to consult with hospitals, paramedics, elected representatives or citizens.

The Town of Parry Sound council decided to move services from South River to Argyle based on a recommendation from their EMS advisory committee. Two volunteers have provided emergency services in Argyle, but with one volunteer retiring the town or the province must now provide an alternative.

SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: Sean Wilson, OPSEU Staff Representative: 416-443-8888, swilson@opseu.org; Les Culp, OPSEU Local 342 representative: 705-571-3068, opseulocal342@live.com

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http://www.opseu.org

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