Dear Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton
We are writing to urge you to support the request for a standalone Section 21 Committee in the paramedic sector. The result will be faster and more effective occupational health and safety action that will increase paramedic safety and improve service delivery across Ontario.
The Committee would provide advice to the Minister of Labour regarding enforcement, regulation, and policy. OPSEU represents approximately 2,200 members in 21 paramedic services, four Broader Public Sector Central Ambulance Communications Centres (CACCs) and 10 Ontario Public Service CACCs.
As you know, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is currently a subcommittee of the Healthcare Section 21 Committee.
The current two-level structure hampers the timely development of materials, pandemic advice, and urgent items needed in the field. EMS work also has very diverse and difficult practices that fall out of the parameters of other health care professions. The paramedic profession is strictly pre-hospital care, governed by the Ontario Ambulance Act. It includes specialized services, such as tactical and community paramedics, COVID-19 swabbing, and safe injection site medics.
Paramedics’ scope of practice continues to expand, bringing new technologies to the paramedic and the paramedic to more remote locations. Paramedics use ambulances of course, but also use a wide array of other vehicles such as airplanes, boats, helicopters, emergency response vehicles, bicycles, and even skates.
New and unique health and safety issues arise often within such a quickly developing industry and require timely guidance and action to prevent injury to workers.
The value of a standalone EMS Section 21 Committee cannot be overstated because of its clear understanding of the sector’s issues and the fact it would have the autonomy to address them with the Minister.
This standalone committee will provide its members and the Minister of Labour with engagement with all the agencies and unions that are in the paramedic industry. The exchange of views and experiences is critical to the industry and is needed for continual improvement of worker safety.
This request for a standalone Section 21 Committee for EMS aligns with Ontario’s current workplace Strategy Framework because it assists the Chief Prevention Officer in enhancing service delivery by building collaborative partnerships and by providing timely and relevant guidance to workplaces across the province.
We would be happy to answer any questions or discuss this issue further at your convenience. Thank you for your consideration.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Chair, OPSEU Ambulance Division