They’re usually first to respond to medical emergency calls, but now Toronto paramedics are reportedly in distress themselves.
According to the union that represents 1,300 first responders in the city, moral has hit rock bottom.
“It’s very demoralizing to my members, the paramedics when much smaller services such as Peel or York show up to a Toronto hospital and they have top notch equipment and uniforms,” said Mike Merriman, The Unit Chair for Paramedic Services at CUPE Local 416.
“We seem to be years behind in that respect in Toronto.”
Amongst the issues at hand include low quality uniforms and equipment. In some cases, the union says paramedics have had to pay out of pocket and purchase their own.
“We don’t have the proper configurations of where to store our equipment,” said Merriman. “While transporting a patient or moving patients, sometimes we have to end up putting our cardiac monitor on a patient’s leg.”
The union says paramedics are also feeling burnt out, adding that EMS sometimes get sent to calls that should be going to police instead. That’s become concerning over the years, because they’re not trained and equipped to deal with those types of calls.
Then there’s also a lack of Advanced Life Support Paramedics, they’re the most highly trained units who can respond to life-threatening calls.
“They’ve had enough frustration in Toronto, and they leave to go work for other services,” Merriman said.
City Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who was called in to address the moral issue, says on average, there should be between six to eight ALS units out on Toronto nights. However just recently, he said he found out there was only one ALS service for all Scarborough one night, and on another, a unit that was downtown had to go all the way out to Mimico to respond to a call.
“We have to make sure that we give the front line troops what they need, we have to make sure their morale is high,” said the Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor.
Back in 2015, city council passed a motion to address paramedics’ low morale.
Karygiannis, who brought those issues forward two years ago, says he’ll once again take the reigns to address these lingering concerns. He’s already spent three days inside hospital emergency wards speaking with paramedics about some of the issues they face on their day to day jobs. Although budgeting issues can be blamed for some of the issues faced by EMS workers, he says there’s a need to dig deeper and get to the root of the problem.
“We can’t afford to cutback because this is going to catch up with us and there’s going to be lives at risk,” Karygiannis said. “Our paramedics are the heartbeat of Toronto, we cannot fail them.”
The councillor has scheduled a series of four meetings at Cityhall to hear more from paramedics, that will get underway next weekend.