Paramedics under stress at Health Science Centre in St. John's | National Union of Public and General Employees

Paramedics under stress at Health Science Centre in St. John's

Carol Furlong calls for action by the province to address workload problems


St. John's (12 April 2006) - The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) is raising concerns about the workload faced by paramedics at the Health Science Centre in St. John’s.

The centre provides paramedic services to more than 200,000 people in the city and surrounding communities.

Based on a survey of hospital-based paramedic services in communities of a similar size (conducted by a NAPE committee), the average number of units for a population this size is eight during the day and five at night.

Yet on weekdays, the centre has only four paramedic units on the road. This level is reduced to three units from 8 p.m. to midnight, and to two units from midnight to 8 a.m. On weekends, there are just three paramedic units on the road during the day and two during the evenings.

Paramedics dispatched from the centre in St. John’s responded to 13,000 calls last year — 45% of all calls in the province.

Paramedics demonstrated in St. John's this week, complaining that understaffing is placing lives at risk. They are demanding that more dispatchers and ambulance attendants be hired.

Unchanged since the 1970s

“During the 1970s, when the service operated out of the old General Hospital on Forest Road in St. John’s, there were two paramedic units serving St. John’s and the surrounding communities at night," says NAPE president Carol Furlong. "In 2006, there are still only two units, yet the population has more than doubled."

NAPE is also concerned because there is only one dispatcher working from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“We know of no other comparable area in Canada where this is the case. It is just not humanly possible for one individual to deal with the volume of calls. It’s not like the dispatcher can just put people on hold to respond to another emergency call,” says Furlong.

“The emergency care provided by paramedics is an essential service. The ability to respond quickly to a call for a paramedic can mean the difference between life and death. I am asking the provincial government and the Eastern Regional Integrated Health Authority to ensure this issue is addressed.”

NAPE is the province’s largest union with more than twenty-one thousand members. It represents workers in the government, health care, education, corrections, food processing, hospitality, retail, security and financial sectors. NUPGE

More information:
St. John's Paramedic Service