Pay increase good for enrolment numbers
JAMES DOROSHUK, CONTRIBUTOR
An arbitrator recently awarded Winnipeg emergency medical responders a 10.5 per cent wage increase — good news for the paramedicine-primary care paramedic (PCP) program at RRC. “We can definitely anticipate more enrolment,” said Erik McCall, PCP program instructor. “For many of our graduates, the goal is to work in a major urban centre, and pay obviously comes in to play in that decision.”
The City of Winnipeg recently finalized details of a contract with the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) that represents Winnipeg paramedics.
The bump in pay and benefits comes after the union had been without a contract since December 2013.
The PCP is in its seventh year and accepts 40 students annually. Right now, McCall said the wait time for the program is two years.
This year, the course offers a new stream called the advanced care paramedic (ACP) program. It can train up to 16 students. Previously, the only available training for ACPs was through the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service. ACPs have a higher level of training and are better suited to administer certain drugs.
While PCPs are trained for most urgent-care situations, ACPs have a higher degree of knowledge in certain areas, such as infant care and drug administration.
A consultants report in 2013 to the Manitoba government stated, “The objective of the WFPS is to have an ACP on each ambulance.” Numbers from that report showed that from 2009 to 2012, there were 1092 PCPs trained. Only 96 ACPs graduated in the same span.
ACPs are currently in extremely short supply in the rural health regions, something RRC’s ACP program hopes to remedy.
“We are designed to send more ACPs to rural areas,” said McCall. “In those areas, you can have patient transport times of up to an hour with no advanced care.”
Clint Kennington, 33, works for the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority as a PCP. He says that rural paramedics have wanted wage parity with Winnipeg paramedics for years. “The city paramedics say that their call volume is higher, so we shouldn’t be paid the same as them,” said Kennington. “They have an ACP looking over their shoulder at every call and they’re always 10 minutes away from a hospital, so they might have less responsibility than I do.”
Wage parity is something McCall agrees with. “Whether you’re a nurse in Winnipeg or elsewhere, you’re paid the same,” he said. “I’d like to see something similar for paramedics.”
As a paramedic who has worked in rural Manitoba for almot 24 years, I am excited by the many advancements our profession has achieved over that time, particularly in the field of education.
I am, however, also very frustrated by the government’s lack of enthusiasm to negotiate fair and appropriate wages for our paramedic practitioners, in both urban and rural settings. The recent salary increase awarded to our Winnipeg colleagues was by way of arbitration…hardly negotiated in good faith, but justly deserved. Now rural paramedics wait in frustration as the MGEU works tirelessly to hold government to an agreement for wage parity with Winnipeg made during the last round of contract negotiations.
Winnipeg paramedics that I know support the MGEU efforts to hold government and rural employers accountable to that agreement. I’m confident that any suggestion to the contrary is a result of the negative atmosphere fueled by a lack of commitment on the part of government to allow employers to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement in a timely manner.
I take great exception to Clint Kennington’s comments about the Winnipeg Paramedics having less responsibility because we are 10 minutes from a hospital. As an ACP for 25 years, I can assure him my level of responsibility is certainly as high, if not higher than most rural colleagues. It could be argued that even my PCP partner has a heavier role to play as my partner, as he is tasked with many functions to assist an ACP. Furthermore, my PCP partner is an independent practitioner. He is responsible for his actions and patient care, unless any ACP interventions are required. The argument of being 10 minutes away from the hospital is mute when a patient requires immediate care or interventions. Furthermore, approximately 50% or more of rural calls are transfers, most notably not requiring any other care than basic vital signs. Paramedics in Winnipeg can do up to 15-16 calls a 12 hour rotation: this is unheard of in rural settings. So please, Mr. Kennington, if your going to argue for a higher wage for rural paramedics, don’t do it on the backs of Winnipeg pre hospital professionals. Get it on merit.