Ambulance union threatens pressure tactics

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By Robert Frank

The union representing Urgences santé paramedics warned in a statement last week that they intend to refuse to work overtime or answer calls once their shift has ended and plan to participate in demonstrations.

The Urgences santé ambulance service has a government-imposed monopoly on medical transport in Montreal and Laval.

“It has had absolutely no impact on operations thus far,” the head of Urgences santé operations Benoît Garneau told The Suburban. “Nor is the quality of care that we provide to the population affected.”

“There are currently no restrictions, no strike nor any slowdown,” he said. “For the time being, the only measures that paramedics are taking is to wear day-glo yellow t-shirts and camouflage pattern pants.”

“Right now, we have more ambulances on the road, because of the holiday period,” Garneau added. “The union has said that [if it implements its pressure tactics] 5-10 more ambulances will be needed.”

Urgences santé isn’t opposed to doing so,” he continued. “Right now, we’re in discussions with the union and the Health Ministry and the city, to evaluate the workload. We will see whether we will be able to put additional ambulances on the road.”

Garneau said that he doesn’t expect to those talks to conclude before the holiday season is over.

“We’re looking at early 2014,” reassured Garneau. “In the meantime, it’s important to remind the public that ambulance service remains unaffected”

Urgences santé certainly has to provide us a minimum level of service,” Laval fire chief Robert Séguin asserted in an interview. “For us, it’s business as usual. We respond to fires and help people involved in car accidents, but our firefighters are trained equipped to help the injured, while they await an ambulance.”

“Each fire station has at least one defibrillator on a truck,” he continued. “Firefighters are trained to use them. In addition, Laval Police officers have defibrillators in every patrol car.”

Séguin also reminded Laval residents to be cautious during the holidays and not push their heating or electrical systems beyond their capacity.

“They shouldn’t overload their electrical systems with all sorts of lights and the like,’ he said. “They also ought to test their smoke detectors because, at this time of year, people often go to bed late and are very tired, so we have to make sure that in the event of a fire, they will be able to exit the house safely.”

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