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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Walk in my shoes says Paramedic.

This is re printed without permission from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta newsletter, written by a paramedic who is responding to the backlash from the pubic regarding the City of Calgary EMS (surrounding areas) impending strike. (Please SUPPORT your local EMS).

I thought that it would be good for all of you to see what Paramedics/ EMS workers (like my husband) have to deal with while being paid $27> on average an hour.

I am writing to express my disappointment in an editorial that I read in my local newspaper. The article complained that the paramedics in Flagstaff county should not strike and seemed to suggest that neither should they be unionized. This opinion is borne of a deep ignorance of the nature of paramedicine in this province. After convocating from university with a B.Sc., I spent another five years of studying day and night, sleeping on stretchers and working for a little as $50 per 24 hour day to become a paramedic. This is not the two week first aid course that the public assumes that it is!

The editorial questioned our "dedication and commitment". Everyday I show up to work and make less money than the high-school student pouring coffee at Tim's. This is a demonstration of my commitment. When you've had to intubate a newborn baby, pronounce someone's grandmother dead, or choose who lives and who dies because there are not enough resources to deal with the mess on our highways, then you and I can have an informed discussion about my commitment.

You say that we should not be an essential service and be denied our right to strike. You don't realize that we've already been denied the rights and legislated labour standards afforded every other profession in this province. We work shifts ranging from 24 to 96 hours in length sometimes with no breaks at all. When I show up at your house and have to make a decision about how best to keep you breathing when I haven't slept for 50 hours and haven't eaten for 18 hours, then maybe you'll have second thoughts about denying me my right to fight for decent working conditions.

Finally, the editorial says that paramedics have no need to strike. If we are not happy where we are, then we should just pack up and go somewhere else where the pay and conditions are better. Be careful what you wish for! There are only about 800 practicing paramedics in Alberta. Many services are cutting back to basic life support [no drugs/painkillers] because of paramedic shortages and it's only going to get worse. The whole country is starting to demand paramedics educated at the Alberta standard and if Alberta doesn't remain competitive our paramedics will leave. Who are you going to call then?

Trystan Donnelly
Registered Emergency Paramedic


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