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Montreal and Laval paramedics to apply pressure tactics Monday


The emergency services paramedics' union, which covers the Montreal and Laval territories, will apply pressure tactics on Monday to protest against working conditions that it deems unacceptable.

"On Monday, there will be a call to simply allow paramedics who are already exhausted by the COVID and all that, but especially by the work overload, to go eat," explained Claude Lamarche, interim president of the Syndicat du préhospitalier affiliated with the Confederation of National Trade Unions (SP-CSN), in a telephone interview.

"The order does not allow for a full lunch break," he said, "because we must always maximize service to the public, but it will still allow for a slightly longer lunch break than the employer requires, which means half an hour."

According to him, these lunches are often reduced, cancelled, or have to be eaten while "caught in traffic congestion" in an ambulance that has just transported a patient and is therefore not very clean.

"There is no paramedic who will refuse to make a call even if he has been waiting for his lunch break for three hours to go to the aid of a child, for example... There is no paramedic who will grumble when it is a matter of life and death," he said.

However, Lamarche takes issue with the idea that "it comes down to day-to-day, not getting a break for priorities that are very, very low," for example, for a non-urgent call that was made the day before.

The Urgences-santé spokesperson Stéphane Smith, for his part, called for "working together (...) We, the union side, the employees and the department to find solutions to the large workload caused by a lack of manpower."


Lamarche said workers are "exhausted."

"People are jumping ship right now... It's very worrisome," he said.

He criticized the use of mandatory overtime as a daily management method rather than an exceptional case.

This creates a vicious circle, he said, as workers "make themselves less and less available (for extra shifts), to take days off."

He also argued that paramedics are "running at less than 50 per cent of staff on the night shifts. We need back-up; we need support."

Smith confirmed that this ratio has been reached several times, especially on weekend nights, and that trained managers are required to fill shifts in the field.

"In the last year, there has been almost no hiring... It's not something that's easy," he said. "The demand is high, with a declining number of employees, so there are consequences for the employees who are there now."

Smith placed some of the blame for the recruitment difficulties on the SP-CSN. One of the pressure tactics used during contract renewal negotiations last year was not to take on any interns.

The union, on the other hand, argued that many other employers were offering internships, so the students should not have had difficulty graduating.

The union is asking for incentives, including monetary incentives, to attract labour or make overtime attractive.

"We are not competitive in the marketplace," Lamarche argued, "compared to the private sector serving other regions."

Urgences-santé did not wish to comment on this statement, as there is an agreement in principle that has not yet been signed or made public.

For his part, Smith would like to see paramedics allowed to "send patients to places other than the ER" when it is not necessary, and another health service could better meet their needs.

Currently, "paramedics do not have the choice to offer transfer to all patients, regardless of the situation," which can cause unnecessary time loss, he said.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced last month that his department "will authorize, in line with the vision of the Health Plan, the implementation of regulation paramedicine which aims to allow, in close collaboration with other professionals, to direct the patient to the right care and the right professional instead of systematically transporting them to the emergency room."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 10, 2022. Top Stories

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