N.S. paramedics union raises alarm after people climb ambulance at St. FX

Click to play video: 'People climb ambulance at St. FX University' People climb ambulance at St. FX University
The union representing paramedics in Nova Scotia is concerned about a video appearing to show students at St. Francis Xavier University climbing an ambulance – Sep 7, 2021

The union representing paramedics in Nova Scotia is concerned after seeing a video showing people climbing and sitting on an ambulance at St. Francis Xavier University over the weekend.

The video shows two young men on top of an ambulance while onlookers cheer. One person could be heard laughing and saying, “My guy’s on the ambulance, bro.”

The video also includes a logo for MacIsaac Hall, a residence at the university.

Michael Nickerson, business manager and CEO of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727 said he became aware of the video on Monday.

Read more: N.S. launches program to help reduce ambulance wait times at hospital ER

He said his understanding is that paramedics were at the Antigonish, N.S., university treating a patient and were not in the ambulance at the time.

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“However, what if they were in the back of the ambulance?” said Nickerson.

“Starting an IV, putting a tube down somebody’s throat to breathe for them — these are all techniques and procedures that take a lot of skill and a lot of time, and if the ambulance is rocking for any reason, then that can be detrimental to the patient.”

Michael Nickerson said he was saddened to see the behaviour demonstrated in the video.
Michael Nickerson said he was saddened to see the behaviour demonstrated in the video. Global News

He added that had they needed to get a critical patient to the hospital as soon as possible, they would have had to navigate through the crowd and wait for people to get off of the ambulance before going.

“Seconds can be life or death — not minutes, seconds can be the difference,” he said, adding that the people on the ambulance could have fallen and hurt themselves, too.

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“It’s just wrong on so many levels, and our paramedics deserve better than that.”

Read more: Long ambulance wait times an indication of bigger health care problem: Nova Scotia physician

Nickerson noted that paramedics have been working hard over the last year and a half throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been facing challenges beforehand too.

The union has been raising awareness for the challenges paramedics are facing through its “Code Critical” campaign, which flags times and locations where fewer than three crews are on the road in their designated shift areas, ready to take calls.

With this in mind, Nickerson said the disrespect shown in the video is especially hurtful.

Read more: N.S. paramedics call for help after reporting more than 40 ‘Code Critical’ cases in five days

“It makes me frustrated, it makes me sad,” he said.

“They’re going to work every day. They’re missing meal breaks, they’re getting shift overruns, they’re having vacations denied. Their morale is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Nickerson believes the people in the video are students, and while he doesn’t want them to be expelled, he does want to see some disciplinary action taken.

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“They need to, in my opinion, issue a public apology to all paramedics in Nova Scotia and learn from their mistakes,” he said.

‘Unacceptable’ behaviour: university

In a letter to the St. Francis Xavier community, Vice-President Elizabeth Yeo said the behaviour shown in the video is “shocking, disappointing and totally unacceptable.”

“Our frontline healthcare workers contribute so much to the safety and health of our communities, especially during the pandemic,” she said.

“They deserve our thanks and utmost respect.”

Yeo said if the people are identified as St. FX students, “they will be subject to our disciplinary process.”

Global News has reached out to EHS for comment.

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