Paramedics chief refutes remark about possible rotating base station closures

Ongoing staffing shortages within the regional land ambulance service that responds to rural health emergencies outside Thunder Bay are likely to overshadow contract talks later this year.
A five-year collective agreement for rural paramedics who work for Superior North Emergency Medical Services (EMS) expires at the end of October. Talks are set to begin in December.
Unifor Local 229 president Kari Jefford said on Monday that Superior North's management is going "to have to step up" to address a significant wage gap in the region that persists between paramedics and their emergency-worker counterparts.
Jefford said while some police officers and firefighters in the region earn more than $50 per hour, paramedics within Local 229 are stuck at $42.
If the pay gap isn't addressed, than Superior North EMS will continue to struggle to attract new paramedics to its ranks, Jefford says.
"Nobody will want to come here, Jefford said. "It's a very, very difficult job. You work a 12-hour shift, and then you're on call."
In a recent post online, Unifor warned that ongoing staffing shortfalls will cause Superior North EMS base stations "to experience rotating closures across the Thunder Bay district this summer."
Superior North EMS Chief Shane Muir, who saw the post, said "it's not quite accurate" to suggest that there will be rotating closures.
But Muir said paramedics within the service will sometimes be required to temporarily relocate to stations other than their home base when shortages are acute.
That recently happened in Greenstone, Muir said, when some paramedics there took ill.
Jefford said paramedics deserve to be better compensated when they're uprooted to cover shifts at other stations that are hundreds of kilometres from home.
Superior North EMS currently has about 220 paramedics that cover both the City of Thunder Bay and rural areas beyond.
Those that work in the city are represented by Unifor Local 39-11, which is currently in negotiations with Superior North EMS.
Muir, who has worked for the land ambulance service for 17 years, said he'd ideally like to hire up to 40 new paramedics. But he said the shortage is nation-wide and competition for new hires is fierce.
Many paramedics burn out before they've reached 20 years in the job because of high physical and mental demands, Muir said.

Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Chronicle-Journal