Ontario paramedics call for province-wide staffing strategy

May 25, 2023 | News

Paramedics in Ontario have been struggling to meet their communities’ rising demands for some time now.

In the last decade, growing populations across the province have made it difficult for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to keep up with demand.

Natalie Waters, the president of CUPE representatives for paramedics in Peterborough County said paramedics are struggling to keep up.

“The pace of EMS has changed a lot over the years. There are not enough of us to keep up with the increase in call volumes,” she said.

Paramedics and EMS workers have been voicing their concern about the lack of support from the Ontario government for years.

However, some CUPE paramedic and EMS representatives took the opportunity to highlight some of these issues by releasing a statement during this year’s annual Paramedic Appreciation Week which goes from May 21 to May 28 every year.

It also provides them the opportunity to denounce the Ford government’s hands-off approach to their struggle.

Among the many issues flagged by representatives, one of the most recurring was the lack of available ambulances which have led to a concerning increase in preventable deaths throughout the province.

Not having enough ambulances is nothing new, in fact this has been a problem in Ontario more or less since the Cholera outbreak of 1883.

However, in the last few years factors such as COVID-19 backups and the increase in drug-related emergencies have impacted the demand for EMS and therefore ambulances.

In the last year, Waterloo has seen a four-fold increase in Code Zeros, which refer to cases where no ambulances are available to respond to a 911 call.

According to the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, the demand for emergency services has increased by four per cent every year since 2010. Resources such as the workers and ambulances however, have not followed suit.

Niko Georgiadis, a frontline paramedic and chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario (CACO) said that the current situation is having serious and avoidable consequences.

“There are tragic consequences every day. Patients in cardiac arrest not getting care in time. Elderly people lying for hours on the floor, suffering as they wait for an ambulance to arrive,” he said.

All across the province paramedics and EMS workers are feeling immense pressure to keep up with the ever growing demands of their jobs.

Georgiadis said they need a strong staffing plan from the provincial government that accounts for growing populations and new issues impacting the healthcare system.

EMS workers and paramedics are also asking for higher incentives from the government for people to study and graduate from college programs in order to fill vacancies.

Having more people to hire would help to begin solving the issue of understaffing and heavy workloads which currently plagues the workforce.