April 17, 2019 11:36 am
Updated: April 17, 2019 4:06 pm

Hamilton paramedics wary of Ontario ambulance merger

Hamilton Paramedic's union fears planned Ontario merger of ambulance services.

Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

As the Ontario Government is looking at merging ambulance services across the province, the union for paramedics says Ontario should consult with them on how those mergers take place.

In its budget delivered last week, the government says it plans to streamline the way land ambulance dispatch services are delivered by integrating the 59 emergency health services operators and 22 dispatch centres.

A spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot says it is too early to know how many ambulance services the province will end up with.

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OPSEU Local 259 President Mario Posteraro says he fears for his Hamilton members adding this is opening the door to privatization.

READ MORE: Paramedic burnout and Code Zero events prompt OPSEU to renew call for more resources

He calls the announcement “nothing but a shell game intended to take the eye off the ball and, I believe, move us further into privatization. Look at history and that will predict the future. I’m concerned and so are the paramedics in our service.”

LISTEN: Global News Radio’s Bill Kelly talks to OPSEU President Mario Posteraro and his concerns over the province’s potential cutting of 59 ambulance services

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Posteraro says the lack of detail is problematic suggesting: “This is a classic case of shoot first aim later. There’s no plan and no detail. We’re all confused as to what the next play is.”

READ MORE: Home visits by Hamilton paramedics aim to reduce 911 calls, hospital admissions

The union boss says the Ford Government is off base in its assessment of the problem.

“The government is purporting to improve care and reduce duplication,” he said. “We don’t have a duplication problem we have a demand problem and it’s driven by demographics in an aging population that uses our service three-times more often than the non-elderly. And unless he’s got a plan to stop people from aging, merging the ambulance service is not the answer. ”

Premier Doug Ford has said, whatever happens, the service will not go down and he guaranteed that Ontario will retain the same number of paramedics.

He says nothing is set in stone, but he wants to look for ways to increase service while saving taxpayers money.

With files from The Canadian Press

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