The incident involving paramedics from Swan River rolling their ambulance into the ditch is only a symptom of a much larger problem facing paramedics and emergency services in Manitoba.
Paramedic fatigue, reliance on a large casual workforce and reduction in services to several communities are causing difficulties for paramedics to deliver their services.
The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) believes there are better solutions. MAHCP has worked with the employers where they represent paramedics to develop positive solutions to these problems.
South Eastman Health was faced with a situation not dissimilar to the Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority, where the majority of their staffing was done through casual employees.
This meant that often service delivery was tenuous and the employer scrambled to fill shifts. It also meant that full- and part-time employees were overworked as they were shifted beyond their physical capacity. Long hours and extended shift schedules contributed to full- and part-time employees becoming overworked.
When MAHCP presented a scheduling model and worked with the employer to refine the model, the end result is today in South Eastman and Nor-Man, the majority of paramedics are full- or part-time employees. This has resulted in better and a more reliable service.
This has also ensured a more stable workforce less affected by fatigue and long hours of work. Paramedics who are permanently employed tend to remain in the communities they serve.
As a result, they contribute to the life of the community. Reliance on a casual workforce limits the availability of emergency services and we have seen where this occurs often service to rural communities is severely affected.
Many of the casual paramedics would prefer a more stable work environment and use the casual status as a means to move toward more permanent work. Often these employees will work casual status until they are able to find more permanent work in larger centres such as Winnipeg or Brandon.
Although certainly not the only answer to the issue of paramedic fatigue and the delivery of a quality emergency service, MAHCP believes that creating a more permanent, stable workforce can alleviate many of the problems being faced by emergency medical services in rural Manitoba.
Armand Roy, labour relations officer
Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 31, 2012