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Recruitment and retention key issue as B.C. paramedics head to bargaining table

Click to play video: 'B.C. ambulance paramedics union begins bargaining'
B.C. ambulance paramedics union begins bargaining
B.C.'s ambulance paramedics are the latest union at the bargaining table and the timing is critical as the service struggles with a province-wide staffing crisis. Paramedics continue leaving the profession for higher paying jobs elsewhere or, simply because they're burned out. Catherine Urquhart has more now on what the union is calling for. – Oct 3, 2022

British Columbia’s ambulance paramedics are the latest union heading to the bargaining table.

The Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC) said negotiations over a new collective agreement began Monday. Their current collective agreement expires this year.

In a media release, APBC president Troy Clifford said the union’s top priority was the recruitment and retention of paramedics, warning that the ambulance service is facing a “critical staff shortage” that could put its survival at risk.

Read more: Paramedic burnout a growing concern as staff shortages continue in B.C.

“We are in the middle of an unprecedented staffing crisis, ambulances are sitting empty across the province, and we are seeing the effects of understaffing and poor wages now more than ever,” Clifford said.

“We are bringing real solutions to the bargaining table and what we believe can fix the ambulance service and set us on a path forward where we can finally recruit and retain staff.”

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Click to play video: 'Paramedic burnout a growing concern as staff shortages continue'
Paramedic burnout a growing concern as staff shortages continue

The union points to variable staffing and compensation models across the province, including some rural areas where paramedics are paid just $2 per hour while “on call” and not responding to an emergency.

The union has previously said B.C.’s new “scheduled on-call” model, which provides paramedics with a guaranteed eight hours of pay followed by a 16-hour on-call period on three-day rotations, has not been effective.

Clifford said paramedics are also seeing unprecedented levels of burnout, with more than 30 per cent of members “either off work with mental health challenges or still coming to work while getting treatment for it.”

Read more: B.C. man speaks out after brother suffers painful 7-hour wait for ambulance

Earlier this year BC Emergency Health Services, which operates the BC Ambulance Service, said it was undertaking the “biggest hiring push in its history,” seeking candidates from across Canada, and late last month, the province said it had added “more than 250 net new paramedic positions throughout B.C.”

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The NDP government budgeted $148 million over three years in the 2022 budget to hire more paramedics and dispatchers.

In a statement, the Health Employers Association of B.C. said it does not comment on negotiations, but was ”

looking forward to productive and collaborative negotiations in support of improvements to public health care services.”

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