Ambulance communications officers: sending help when we need it most

Ontario Public Service Employees Union Paramedics Logo

There’s no doubt that being a first responder is one of the most demanding and most stressful jobs. Ensuring an ambulance arrives at the right place in the shortest time can mean the difference between relief and tragedy, between life and death.

That’s why, in addition to looking to their workplace interests, OPSEU/SEFPO honours its 911 ambulance communications officers (ACOs) in a special way during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which runs April 10-16.

We’re extremely proud to represent hundreds of workers in 15 central ambulance communications centres: four within the broader public sector and 11 within the Ontario Public Service. The lights never go out in these centres: ACOs are on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It can be a fast-paced and challenging environment in which ACOs must accurately provide vital information to paramedics – there’s no room for error.

They also remain calm and reassuring when dealing with greatly distressed, even traumatized individuals. While a lifetime of training and experience can prepare for each new call, no situation is exactly the same. Quick thinking and sound judgement are always needed.

We also recognize that ACOs have not been able to work from home during the pandemic: no distractions that could break their concentration are permitted. That means, in addition to work-related stresses, ACOs have had to worry about getting COVID-19 in the workplace and bringing it home.

ACOs’ extremely challenging working conditions have led to an exodus from the profession, while the number of those seeking a future in the area has plunged. Without dramatic improvements and a robust recruitment campaign, public safety will inevitably risk being compromised.

As part of its awareness campaign, OPSEU/SEFPO has turned to the Ontario legislature directly to make ACOs’ plight better known and addressed. The union is sending a petition to the legislature that calls for improved wages, increased staffing levels, addressing skyrocketing workload and halting any plans for the amalgamations and mergers of dispatch services and centres.

This week, we’re extremely proud to renew our appreciation for the work ACOs perform so expertly. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their unwavering dedication to the health and safety of all Ontarians.

In solidarity,

JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Amanda Usher – ACO Director, OPSEU/SEFPO Ambulance Division

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