Sun Country emergency services require support

There is a need to properly support rural emergency medical response services in the Sun Country Health Region according to a recent release issued by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5999.

“There are chronic staff shortages that can lead to shutdown of emergency medical services (EMS) on a continual basis in multiple communities in the Sun Country region. Rural communities can be without EMS for as much as 10 days a month,” said Sandra Seitz, president of CUPE Local 5999. “This means the already short-staffed communities are covering larger areas in emergencies and response times are longer, due to those period of wider coverage.”

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“Patient care is the most important part of our job as EMS and health-care providrs. This is our prime directive. The present issues have a direct impact on our patients, whether it be in response time due to staff shortages or the quality of care available. These issues are directly and negatively affecting patient health,” said Michael Harlos, an EMS worker in Redvers.

EMS, they said, is a vital service and should be treated as such and EMS employees should be paid according to their level of training and not have to have a full-time occupation on the side to support them and their families, a release said.

“There are many EMS workers in the Sun Country district working between 4,000 and 7,000 on-call hours per year, compared to 1,944 average hours for full-time work,” said Cindy Thompson, a Maryfield EMS employee.

“These working conditions make it hard to recruit new staff and retain those we have,” said Harlos. “Workers are paid very little for time on call. On top of this, only the hours where we respond to a call count toward benefits, holiday accruals or pensionable earnings.”

CUPE represents 13,000 health-care workers in Saskatchewan.

Some EMS services are provided to Sun Country through private contractors, others through volunteer services as well as regularly scheduled and deployed employees. 

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