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OUR VIEW: Paramedic shortage is a black eye for NDP government

No ambulance staffing in Maple Ridge on Saturday is a crisis situation
(The News/files)

It’s both shocking and unacceptable that Maple Ridge had no ambulances staffed on Saturday.

Union head Troy Clifford of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. warned the public to expect delays in service across the region, and he included Maple Ridge by name.

Clifford asserts the province is short 1,000 paramedics, so this is an issue that will impact the whole Lower Mainland, and will not be resolved quickly.

The union warned the most serious health emergencies would be prioritized, and other patients could face considerable waits.

This situation is a tragedy for our seniors in particular, who are most in need of health services. After a lifetime of paying taxes, in their retirement they have to worry whether they will get the services they need if they suffer a fall, or are experiencing chest pains.

Successive B.C. governments have not been able to solve this problem

A year ago, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced funding for 85 new full-time paramedic positions, create new ambulance stations, and buy 22 new ambulances.

“I’ll say two things that I expect from BCEHS: one, when people need an ambulance and call 911 an ambulance should get there; and two, that we should be an outstanding employer.”

But this summer, just a year later, the union is sounding the alarm that the situation has never been worse.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge residents will be without any ambulances on Saturday

Clifford said his paramedics earn one-third less than other emergency responders, and it certainly appears there is work to be done, to make this vocation more attractive. According to WorkBC, the median annual salary for paramedical jobs in B.C. is $60,000, compared with $85,000 for firefighters and $78,000 for police officers.

While different political parties have been unable to solve this issue, it looks particularly bad on an NDP government. A party that has traditionally been supported by unions and their members is struggling to recruit and retain unionized workers for a critical health care service.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall sent a letter to Dix, along with nine other Lower Mainland mayors, calling for better pay for paramedics, and more ambulance resources. Dingwall, as a career RCMP officer and former Ridge Meadows detachment commander, has all kinds of credibility when talking about first responders.

In his letter to Dix, Dingwall also called for better integration of firefighters on medical calls.

Clifford disagrees, saying cities should not take on this burden, and effectively let the province off the hook.

Philosophically, it makes no sense to have emergency health calls paid for by our property taxes.

Ultimately, voters will hold the provincial government responsible.

And the public needs to demand services from BC Emergency Health Services, so our ambulances are fully staffed every day.

READ ALSO: Emergency rooms close in B.C., paramedics union says ambulances unstaffed

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