N.S. paramedics union says members are getting worn out and burnt out
For almost a year now, the union representing Nova Scotia's paramedics has been sending a tweet every time it learns of an area of the province without enough ambulances.
This morning, it was Halifax.
“It's pretty well a daily occurrence that there are no ambulances available or a low amount of ambulances available,” said Michael Nickerson, president of IOUE Local 727 (International Union of Operating Engineers).
Earlier this week, it was the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
The reason? There are several, but the main ones are delays in transferring patients from ambulances into busy and crowded hospitals and delays transferring them out.
Sometimes, it's a higher number of 911 calls.
That creates an extra burden on emergency personnel.
“They're getting three, four, five hours, sometimes six hours of overtime, and just the morale, and the fatigue, they're getting wore out and burn-out,” Nickerson said.
The head of EHS in Nova Scotia says there will always be an ambulance for anyone who calls 911, but says the system is busy, and the number of calls coming in is steadily increasing.
“It might take us a little longer on days like today when it's busy, but we will get to you,” said Jeff Fraser.
On an average day, EHS responds to 530 calls throughout the province. Two days ago, there were 603.
“As we start seeing calls starting to develop, we start bringing ambulances in from outside the area, so we will drop to zero, but we're already contemplating what the next move will be,” Fraser said.
For PC MLA Timothy Halman, the next move is in the Liberal government's hands.
Friday morning, he met with a constituent who's a paramedic to talk about the issue.
“You know, there are just not enough beds in the system, and then the domino effect occurs,” Halman said. “The government needs to get a handle on this.”
A program was started here at the Dartmouth General about a year ago, to try to relieve the ambulance backlog by reducing the time it takes to offload patients.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says that ongoing pilot program is now being evaluated in the hopes of moving forward.
Nickerson says the union wants to sit down with the government, EHS, other health unions, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority to solve the problem sooner, rather than later.
Health Minister Randy Delorey was in his constituency today and unavailable for an interview, but the Nova Scotia Health Authority says it has done a lot of work in the past year to try to find better ways to move patients in and out of hospitals.
A report on that work is being finalized, as the health authority says it continues to try to find ways in the system to relieve the pressure.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.