Paramedics raise alarm over red alerts

Josh Pennell
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An emergency of a different kind brought about 50 paramedics to Confederation Building Monday. They voiced a growing concern about red alerts when all ambulances are in use and 911 calls go into a holding pattern until one is available, along with paramedics, to respond.

Chris Harris, an advanced-care paramedic, spoke to the media on behalf of the group. “It has been getting worse,” he said. “At this point we feel that we are at a bit of a tipping point.”

Eastern Health paramedics held a rally at Confederation Building Tuesday to protest their ongoing concerns with the increasing numbers of red alerts they encounter. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Last fiscal year, there were close to 8,000 minutes with red alert status. Harris said this fiscal year has the potential to see 9,500 such minutes.

“It is very stressful to be dealing with one patient knowing that there are other patients waiting that we cannot respond to,” he said.

An increase in alerts with no new resources being added to the system means patients are potentially going to pay the price, Harris added.

On Confederation Building’s steps, the group raised several chants that verbalized their concerns, such as, “No more red alerts.”

Jimmy Lacey, eastern vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), which represents the paramedics, gave a spirited speech from the steps.

“This is not about money. This is strictly about health,” Lacey roared to the crowd. “I would say to the government of our province that one minute of red alert is one life too many lost.”

Following the rally, Lacey told The Telegram the rural demographic that’s growing on the fringes of St. john’s means people can’t necessarily count on the seven- or eight-minute arrival time for paramedics unless something is done to increase paramedic availability.

Two satellite paramedic dispatch centres on Major’s Path and Topsail Road west meant to cut down on paramedic arrival times aren’t being staffed properly, Lacey said.

“From what I gather … they are not being utilized to the potential they should be,” he said. “Why have a facility if we got no one to man it?”

Several members of the opposition parties were in the crowd, and some spoke at the demonstration.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: Topsail Road

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