Paramedics picket Castlegar Health Centre
Photo courtesy Bronwyn Barter
Paramedics hit the picket lines Monday after discovering a critical care unit was to be taken out of service for two days to allow for non-essential training.
Bronwyn Barter, vice-president of CUPE 873 (Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.), said the picketing was, “in response to the BC Ambulance Service taking the only Critical Care paramedic in the West Kootenays off shift without notice.
“The decision to pull Trail’s only highly-trained paramedic is irresponsible and shortsighted,” she said, adding the paramedic was not advised that he would be expected to meet with a mediator today and tomorrow rather that staff the ambulance.
“This is the only Critical Care ambulance serving the whole of the West Kootenays. BCAS could have scheduled someone else to ensure that there is coverage for residents. Instead they waited for the crew to show up at work to find out they would not be working and no-one would be there in their place for two days.”
Barter said the paramedics have been trying to address problems of a deteriorating ambulance service since they began bargaining in December 2008, but have not been able to get back to the bargaining table since March 25 and have no process to reach a settlement because of the government’s intransigence.
They have been working while on strike for 139 days.
“We’re picketing to keep this ambulance staffed and serving Kootenay residents,” says Barter, adding members of CUPE 873 want the government to negotiate so that improvements can be made to how services are delivered.
“Chronic understaffing and long response times continue to be the biggest issues paramedics want the government to address,” she concluded.