Paramedics march in call for action on 'dangerously understaffed' ambulance system

·2 min read

Paramedics took to the streets of St. John's on Friday afternoon to call for action, after a CBC Investigates story revealed new details of big problems in the metro ambulance service run by Eastern Health.

Dozens of them chanted "solidarity" and carried signs, but none made any public comments.

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, says that's because they aren't permitted to do so.

"As of today, they cannot speak publicly about their concerns," Earle told the crowd. "I can and I will."

The union organized the demonstration in the wake of disclosures in a CBC Investigates story on Monday.

"It took a media outlet to go and do an [access-to-information] request to get this documentation," Earle said.

"It was kept in secret."

Three months ago, Eastern Health officials offered a blunt assessment of ambulance capabilities on the northeast Avalon in a briefing to the provincial Department of Health, calling the metro ambulance service "dangerously understaffed."

There were more than 2,000 so-called red alerts over a 12-month period, when there was no ambulance available to respond to a call.

The document also outlined long off-load delays at emergency rooms, and the frequency of transports as being linked to burnout and health issues among paramedics.

Bruce Tilley/CBC
Bruce Tilley/CBC

Those were all new revelations about a long-standing problem.

"That is not acceptable and it cannot go on for seven days longer, let alone seven years longer," Earle said.

Eastern Health has declined comment and the Health Department says it can't talk during the election.

On Monday, Premier Andrew Furey said the province has taken action on the issue — something NAPE disputes.

"We are not going to go away," Earle told the crowd.

"I call upon the politicians that are now seeking office, to tell us what you are going to do to address the situation here in the metro area, and across this province."

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