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Paramedics protest potholes

Hitting one causes pain in ambulances

Manitoba's potholed roads and streets are hard on patients in ambulances and those attending to them, the paramedic association says.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Manitoba's potholed roads and streets are hard on patients in ambulances and those attending to them, the paramedic association says.

You've injured your back or neck and you're being rushed to hospital in an ambulance. Do you want the ambulance to hit a pothole?

The Paramedic Association of Manitoba has teamed with CAA Manitoba to sound the siren and turn on the flashing emergency lights over an issue they say is affecting patients in Winnipeg and across the province -- potholes and crumbling roads.

Eric Glass, of the paramedic association, said Tuesday it's one thing for a motorist to be jarred when a wheel hits a pothole, but quite another for a patient in the back of an ambulance with a paramedic.

"Patient comfort is our No. 1 concern, followed by the safety and comfort of the paramedic at the back," Glass said.

"Putting something in an intravenous line or looking at the patient is hard enough to do in good conditions, but when you put in the unknown like a pothole, that's a challenge."

Glass said he saw first-hand just three weeks ago the pain it can cause patients when he was helping transport one with a back injury from the airport to Health Sciences Centre.

"I was sitting sideways in the back when we hit a pothole and it jounced my back hard," Glass said.

"But the patient, who had a back injury, he had a good scream come out of him. It was uncomfortable."

Glass said some of the worst streets in the city are ones ambulances need to get their patients to hospitals. He said Sherbrook Street, Notre Dame Avenue and Ellice and Sargent avenues are bad near HSC, and Pembina Highway is terrible near Victoria General Hospital.

The paramedic association says almost 150,000 patients are transported by ambulances each year, with more than 10,000 of them travelling on rural roads to Winnipeg hospitals.

CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Angele Faucher said Manitobans can vote on what they believe are the worst roads in the province until April 23.

Faucher said at least one road the paramedic association is concerned about, Pembina Highway, is No. 2 on the top-10 list of bad roads.

"We're loud and clear with our support of paramedics," she said.

"We all drive over potholes every day, but we don't realize who also drive over those roads include patients."

Faucher said once the worst-roads votes are in, the CAA will bring the data to all levels of government so if they aren't already on the road-repair list, they get put on it.

Kevin Chief, MLA for Point Douglas and minister responsible for relations with Winnipeg, said the provincial government is spending millions of dollars that will help patients travelling in ambulances and other motorists as well.

Chief noted that last month, the province announced $250 million is being spent on Winnipeg streets and sidewalks during the next five years.

"There will be over 100 projects this year and they affect virtually every neighbourhood in Winnipeg," he said.

"We've never seen this amount of work on roads in Winnipeg as you'll see this spring... We're very closely working with the CAA, the city and the construction industry, and they say they have the capacity to get all the work done."

Roadwork is also being done in rural areas. On Tuesday, Premier Greg Selinger was in Ste. Anne and Steinbach to announce a total of $35 million worth of repairs to Highway 12 south of the Trans-Canada Highway.

"This highway is a heavily travelled north-south tourist and trade route, and these road investments will improve the ride for heavy trucks and commuters," Selinger said in a statement.

Selinger said the project is part of the province's $5.5-billion, five-year investment in infrastructure.

Chief said some of the roads at the top of the CAA's worst-roads list, including Pembina Highway and St. James Street, are on the repair list.

"We apologize in advance to motorists for the delays they'll have," he said.

"We know Winnipeggers like the smell of coffee. We're asking them to get used to smelling the smell of asphalt."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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