Paramedics “Burnt Out, Exhausted” according to representatives

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Images from the collision on second line west, August 16, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)

Earlier this week we brought you a story on how our paramedic system in Sault Ste. Marie is under stress.

Since that story, paramedics have been inundated with messages of support on social media voicing just how much they are appreciated.

Emergency Services responded to an MVC downtown, June 15, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.ocm)

Unifor Local 1359 President, Cathy Humalamaki, and Paramedic Unit Chair, Mary Casola, reached out to SaultOnline to explain where they see some of the issues. Collectively, they represent 69 Paramedics as well as Communications Officers in the City. They point the fingers at management as the primary reason for some of the ongoing issues they are facing.

“Our Paramedics are frustrated, burnt out and under extreme pressure,” said Casola. “We miss meal breaks, treat the same people multiple times, and work long shifts due to improper staffing levels.”

Emergency Services attend collision, March 8, 2021. (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)
Did you know?

Only 4% of paramedics make it to retirement?

Currently the union has multiple paramedics off on leave for injuries and stress due to the ongoing challenges presented by the job, and the conditions in which they work. They provided us with 7 pages of incidents where the force either had to up-staff due to lack of resources or send out mass texts looking for shifts to be filled due to a paramedic not being able to come in.

They point to a disturbing trend which puts both paramedics and those they serve in danger.

Emergency Services attend a home in the west end for an early morning fire, August 7, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)

“During our last round of bargaining, DSSAB put a stop to us trading shifts so we could work 18 hours and then come back for another 12, deeming it unsafe,” says Unifor. “Now, they are asking a medic who works 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to work until noon, then their partner to come in at noon and work until 6 a.m. the next day, effectively 30 out of 36 hours.”

Hospital offload delays are a significant issue across the province.  Casola, who has over 30 years of experience on the roads of Sault Ste. Marie, explained to us what happens when these situations occur at Sault Area Hospital.

“So when we are [dispatched] to these calls, the paramedics are unable to at times, just offload the patient to a nurse and emerge because of the offloading issues. The paramedics are also sitting in the emergency department from 30 minutes up to three hours, if not greater, on an offload delay,” says Casola. “The reason for that, at times, could be nurse staffing issues or bed issues, but for whatever the reason is, they’re not able to [assume] patient care.”

Emergency Services attended the scene of an east end collision, August 14, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)

Sault Area Hospital has also removed the work station paramedics had been using, which included docking ports as well as proper seating to do administrative work while on offload. Not to mention having been used as a place to charge their stretchers. That room is now a space for SAH employees to hang their PPE.

Even worse, Unifor says patients with addictions and mental health issues have zero privacy while waiting at offload. If they do embarrassing things such as strip, swear out loud etc., their confidentiality is shot.

Paramedics, who should be answering calls, can be required to sit in emergency or in their ambulance in the ambulance bay.  These delays can cause them to sit waiting through their meal breaks and listen to emergency calls they can’t attend because of these delays, all the while knowing that these delays could also cost lives.

Sault Ambulance attended the collision, August 23, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)

At times, there are zero ambulances in Sault Ste. Marie available to respond to emergencies. In these instances, the Primary Response Unit from Goulais has been redeployed to assist in Sault Ste. Marie as well as the ambulance which is supposed to be in Garden River 24/7, according to Unifor.

“We have been asking for more paramedics.  According to a consultant, there was supposed to be an additional 24 hour ambulance in Sault Ste. Marie, this year,” states local representatives. “Instead, they (management) point to call volumes not being high enough and say it’s not in the budget.”

What is in the budget however, is room for more management. A second Deputy Paramedic Chief position is being filled this year. They also point to a recent quote by management stating call volumes are expected to be 1,500 more than they were last year with a projected total of 17,000 calls.

So why will DSSAB not fund more ambulances?

Why are they willing to put their workforce at risk?

When will the 24 hour ambulance, suggested by the consultant, be put on the books?

Stay with SaultOnline as we continue to shine light on issues inside our community.

14 COMMENTS

  1. The mayor could fix this problem if he wanted to, but nothing that is really vital or important seems to be a priority for this self serving mayor. He has downtown plaza on the brain.

  2. Yes I agree most of these. People do not know how to work for a living. We donate money to the hospital & buy their tickets & they make millions “BUT” nothing seems to get any better for the people in Need. All we are doing is supporting massive bonuses.

    • To: Justin Trudeau
      From: The Citizens of Canada

      Quit your job, work elsewhere. Simple. More to life than allegedly working 25 hours a day, imposing needless lockdowns, and destroying the economy and thousands of small businesses. If the job is not fulfilling, leave.

  3. So if you do the math here, 17000 calls a year, divided by 5 ambulances, divided by 2 shifts that’s 4-5 calls per truck per shift “on average”, even at an hour a call, thats 5 hours work time in a 12 hour shift… am I missing something? Perhaps theres a need to reallocate staffing to peak times, etc. but theres certainly solutions that can address the issue without the need for more resources… Remember the days when there were 3 ambulances on during the day and 2 at night? Call volumes were around 14000 a year at that time.. so what’s changed? Off loads can be managed by staffing a paramedic at the hospital like other cities do to monitor the off loads for CTAS 3-5 cases… Lots of solutions out there, everyones exhausted in their jobs, its the reality. only so much $ to around!

    • True….except there’s 3 trucks at night and 5 during the day so to adjust the math that is an average of 5 calls per truck during the day and 8 at night. That’s approx. 5 working hours during the day and 8 out of 12 during the night. Then just for fun let’s tack a 30 min hospital off load onto each of those calls so now that’s 7.5 hours on days and 12 out of 12 on nights. Not to bad wait….LUNCH/break! So that would be two 30 min breaks because they’re 12 hour shifts so add another hour to each and that is 13 worked hours at night and 8.5 during the day. Hopefully nothing bad happens that needs debriefing as it looks like they’re out of time.

    • perhaps you need to check the geographical area of coverage. Montreal river is 1.5 hours away, with a 1.5 hour return time!

      garden river truck covers as far as the island sometimes yet (45 minutes east, and then 45 minutes back into town) If you can do the math correctly you would see that most calls are not 1 hour, and based on the article with multiple staff on offload for 3+ hours- the average call does not take 1 hour, it can take up to 4 hours if its a city call. Pull your head out of the sand bucket Johnny and re read the article.

    • A known fact that these paramedics and Trucks do not stop, very rarely these units are parked. Paramedics are always on the Job which if anyone listens or pays attention what so ever can see and hear the sirens at all hours of any day. Great job to all the Paramedics, use deserve praise not criticism.

    • I believe you’re missing the fact that they can’t just offload at the hospital. They get stuck there sometimes waiting for hours with their patient. This seems to be a 2 part problem. Perhaps even more to those who understand the details behind the problems.

  4. Our health system is absolutely deplorable. Wait times
    at Emerg. are unacceptable. Working conditions for
    doctors, nurses and paramedics are unacceptable.
    Love to see “upper management” walk a mile
    in their shoes. It will definitely be an eye opener.

  5. It’s not the Management, it’s the “Higher Ups”, as we are all told in our field…they make their bonuses based on cut-backs and most of these people making the decisions have never had to put their money where their mouths are, and have actually had to DO the jobs…DESPICABLE !!

    • You forgot about the $700,000,000+ buying media outlets followed by another $60,000,000+ again buying media sway only a few weeks from this election.
      How anyone can support Trudeau and the most corrupt government in Canadian history is beyond me.

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