'Right now lives are being put at risk. It’s that simple.' - Chris Broughton, MGEU Local 911.
Winnipeg (22 Sept. 2010) - Winnipeg paramedics have launched an advertising campaign to underline the chronic issue of ambulance shortages in Winnipeg. The problem has gotten worse over the past few years and paramedics fear the shortage will put more people at risk if something is not done about it now.
“Over the recent past we have tried to bring this serious issue to the attention of the City of Winnipeg hoping for a solution that will keep Winnipeg families safer and healthier," says Chris Broughton, president of Paramedics of Winnipeg, Local 911 of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE).
"But we have seen only band-aid solutions to addressing what we feel should be a major issue in the current municipal election,” he says.
“Our hope is that when people understand the scope of the problem they will begin to ask questions of all candidates seeking political office. Ultimately, we want to see a concrete, coherent plan for how to deal with this because right now lives are being put at risk. It’s that simple.”
There has not been a sufficient increase in ambulances available to paramedics or EMS call centre personnel over the past five years, despite clear and mounting evidence that these are crucial to improving health outcomes for Winnipeg residents. For example:
- In the past five years there has been a 17% increase in EMS call volumes.
- In the past three years, there has been a 44.3% increase in EMS call processing times.
- Despite these increases in call volumes and processing times, the City of Winnipeg has reduced the number of positions in the 911 EMS call centre (one position per 12-hour shift).
- In 2004, each ambulance responded to an average of 3,799 incidents. By 2008, that number had increased to 4,365 incidents per ambulance.
- Compared to 2004, inter-facility transfer volume has increased 74.7% to 11,548 (priority 1 and 2).
- The average hospital turn-around time for 2009 was 55 minutes (an increase of 37.5% since 2005).
- Industry standards stipulate one ambulance should be available for every 30,000 citizens. In Winnipeg in 2009, the ratio was 1 ambulance for every 37,505 citizens.
- To bring Winnipeg up to industry standards it would need at least five more ambulances on the road to comply.
“The ultimate risk to Winnipeg families could be devastating if these issues aren’t addressed,” Broughton says. “In cases of strokes or heart attacks, when immediate transport to hospital is necessary or when the administration of clot busting drugs is crucial, this shortage is literally about life and death. With an aging population, increased violent crime in our city that requires paramedics to be on scenes longer, and an on-going shortage in the 911 call centre, we’re only going to see our health outcomes get worse,” Broughton adds.
In addition to the launch of the radio advertising, paramedics have launched a new website to underline other challenges they face on the job each day, offer some solutions to help address the problems inherent in the ambulance system, and to provide tools for Winnipeg voters to help advocate for ambulance service delivery improvements during the upcoming municipal election.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
MGEU Radio Ad: EMS, Life or Death