Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals warns of rural paramedic crisis

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) said there is a rural paramedic staffing crisis going on in the province and is calling on the provincial government to hire more staff.

The association said ambulances were out of service for more than 17,000 hours, according to the Oct. 2021 Medical Transportation Coordination Centre Ground Report.

Those numbers are based on EMS crew reports of when ambulances are expected to be staffed, but do not have the required legislated personnel to operate.

“We have medics that are working double and triple shifts. That’s unacceptable, it’s unsafe for the medics, it’s unsafe quite honestly for Manitobans out there,” said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

“By having that many ambulances out of service because we simply don’t have enough paramedics out there, those response times are going to go up,” said Moroz.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the association expects the number of out-of-service ambulances to grow.

The MAHCP represents about 800 rural paramedics, but Moroz said that number should be a lot higher.

“If you take those hours that have been steadily increasing, that they’re out for understaffing, it comes in around 400. Now that’s a huge number, that’s a 50 per cent increase that we need, that’s the situation that we’re actually talking about,” said Moroz.

The association said it brought its concerns to the province and Shared Health last summer but there has been no official response.

In the long term, Moroz said more needs to be done to attract, train and retain more people into the profession. An immediate solution is for more job postings and hiring as well as addressing some vacancy management issues.

Another solution would be to address wage disparities between rural and city paramedics.

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for Shared Health said emergency response staffing in rural areas has been challenging for a long time and that “efforts are underway to recruit staff to provide 24-7 paramedic coverage in order to reduce Manitoba’s reliance on overtime or on-call staffing.”

Shared Health also said there has been increased absenteeism due to COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms, and exposure among paramedics.

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