As we approach the end of Paramedic Services Week, it’s important to remember that our fight to protect and improve paramedic services must not end.
Paramedic service providers play a vital role in protecting the health and safety of all Ontarians. That’s why the theme of this year’s Paramedic Services Week is “celebrating successes.” This week has been an important time to reflect on the important work that our paramedics do every day.
Paramedics are the first responders in a medical emergency. When they arrive, you can be confident you are receiving compassionate emergency care from a highly-skilled professional. Community paramedic programs also allow our paramedics to deliver in-home, non-emergency care and that helps to reduce the number of 9-1-1 calls.
Ontario’s paramedics are the beating heart of emergency medicine in this province. It requires skill, stamina and dedication. That’s why Paramedic Services Week is so important; it’s all about recognizing the invaluable contributions that paramedics make in our communities and our province.
With the Ford government’s plan to merge and cut ambulance services, our work is more important now than ever.
In April, Ford’s plan to merge 59 local ambulance services into 10 regional entities was revealed. Ford also announced retroactive cuts to land ambulance services – freezing this year’s funding transfer at 2017 levels and forcing communities to absorb another in-year budget cut. We know from decades of experience that restructuring is not only costly, it also leads to fewer services and more privatization.
But with mounting public pressure and Ford’s popularity plummeting in the polls, his government was forced to reverse course and cancel this year’s retroactive cuts. With talk of municipalities still needing to “find efficiencies,” we’re not in the clear. Ontario faces the threat of longer-term cuts – unless we stop them.
But Ford’s reversal does go to show that immense and unified public pressure works – even when we’re up against a majority government. Momentum is building but we’ve got to work together to win.
That’s why this year, we must do more than just thank our paramedics and service providers; we must continue to fight to protect and improve our paramedic services.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU
Chair, OPSEU Ambulance Division