Quebec paramedics are being pushed to the sideline if they participate in a government program designed to fight against COVID-19.
The front-line health-care workers who are registered in the JeContribue program are no longer entitled to $32-an-hour pay to vaccinate or test people for COVID-19.
The salary for paramedics has been cut to $21 per hour.
“Very upset, very frustrated,” Marc-Olivier Plante, a paramedic in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, told Global News.
Paramedics were part of a list of health-care professionals that included nurses and respiratory therapists participating in the JeContribue program when it was launched almost three years ago.
It was a campaign calling on health-care professionals to provide additional services in the battle against COVID-19, outside of their main job.
But now the government has changed the classification of paramedics, resulting in a pay cut when participating in the program.
“It’s very disrespectful and a big, big betrayal,” Plante said.
The paramedic says he has suspended his involvement in the government-run program and doesn’t plan to return.
Plante’s not alone.
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It’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 paramedics involved in JeContribue — and many are expected to drop out.
“With a $21 contribution, I guess we will just do our job as paramedic,” Jean-François Gagné, a paramedic union representative, told Global News.
Gagné is telling his members to cease participating when nurses and respiratory therapists continue to make money for the same work.
“It’s a big lack of respect for the paramedics,” Gagné said.
In an email to Global News, the press attachée to Health Minister Christian Dubé, Antoine de la Durantaye, writes: “We are no longer in a hygiene or sanitation health emergency. We therefore, have to respect the job title of each of our professionals.”
The JeContribue website states that the program is “not looking for candidates at this time” in the vaccination efforts against COVID-19.
An online organization that tracks pre-hospital care in real time warns that the government’s decision could create a health risk to the public the next time it calls on paramedics to help.
“I think that the real danger is that paramedics won’t contribute anymore,” Hal Newman of The Last Ambulance told Global News.
The decision is discouraging paramedics to do anything else but their job.