Overworked paramedics in Nova Scotia becoming public safety issue, union says

Overworked paramedics in Nova Scotia becoming public safety issue, union says
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia paramedics are being so overworked it s become a public safety issue for the province, their union told a legislature committee Thursday.

Mike Nickerson, business agent for union local 727, told the health committee that paramedics are logging one to six overtime hours a shift, which he said "is just not safe."

"Paramedics are tired, they re hungry and they are feeling the pressure of a busier system," said Nickerson. "Something needs to be done and it needs to be done now."

While the situation is complex, Nickerson said the biggest problem is the offload delays at many overcrowded hospital emergency departments, due to a lack of acute care beds.

"If we can fix the offload delays somewhat, then a lot of these other issues that our members are facing will fix themselves," he said.

The union also told the committee that bottlenecks created by the offload problem and the use of ambulances for non-emergency calls have cut into response times.

Union CEO Terry Chapman said the standard response set in 1997 was eight minutes and 59 seconds, and now many call responses are much longer. Those standard times can vary from 15 minutes outside the city to 30 minutes in rural areas.

"One case that I actually witnessed in this city (Halifax) was 58 minutes," said Chapman, who called that unacceptable.

NDP committee member Tammy Martin got a dramatic response when she asked Chapman what happens on busy days when the nearest ambulances are long distances away.
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