Paramedics leaving N.S. for better pay, working conditions

Chris Hayes
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An EHS paramedic leaves with a patient from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Thursday.

SYDNEY — Nova Scotia’s paramedics are leaving for better-paying jobs in Western Canada, including those with advanced training.

Union leader Terry Chapman said an estimated 60 to 90 advanced-care paramedics who have left in the last year and a half are also seeking better working conditions.  

Chapman said advanced-care paramedics who leave are mostly being replaced by primary-care paramedics, who have less training.

“My particular concern with that is the continuance of advanced care in the province,” Chapman said Thursday. “A seasoned advanced-care provider can provide two-thirds more critical care to a sick or injured patient than a primary-care paramedic.”

An advanced-care paramedic, for instance, can administer clot-busting drugs to people suffering a stroke or heart attack, but a primary-care paramedic can’t, said Chapman.

“They give it to you immediately the clot-busting drug ... and then off you go to the hospital, along with other cessation drugs, IV therapy, intubation therapy should you become unresponsive in your airway tract, that type of thing. Those are advanced skills.

“A primary-care paramedic can’t do that, can’t do a lot of that.”

Chapman said advanced-care paramedics in Nova Scotia earning $62,000 after five years are likely being paid between $80,000 and $90,000 in Alberta, and some are pulling down higher salaries.

“The money is there but it’s not just that,” he said.

Chapman said paramedics are also leaving because of working conditions, for instance, when those who call in sick are not replaced, leaving remaining personnel at an ambulance station overworked.

“Morale is at an all-time low.”

There are about 749 paramedics registered with the Nova Scotia union, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727, including between 290 and 315 in Cape Breton, he said.

A company called Medavie HealthEd is training paramedics at a Dartmouth school that has a satellite campus in Glace Bay.

Paramedics across the province are voting on a final offer from their employer, which should be finished in late February or early March.

The Cape Breton Post tried without success to reach Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson on Thursday for his take on the concerns raised by paramedics.

chayes@cbpost.com

Organizations: Nova Scotia union, International Union of Operating Engineers, Medavie HealthEd Dartmouth school Cape Breton Post

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, SYDNEY, Western Canada Alberta Cape Breton Glace Bay

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Recent comments

  • Bill in Fort Mac
    February 16, 2013 - 03:29

    Nova Scotia's Economy is beyond repair. It has been allowed to decay to the point of no return. 1) Loss of infrastructure, Ralway, Roads, Civil and municpal. 2) Loss of Major employers, and followed by the loss of Medium and Small business. 3) Rapidly aging population 4) migration of young to middle aged people out west because of lack of oppertunity, loss of employment, or Just plain fed up (As in my case). Worked for NSP for 17 years, and could not stand the B.S that company stands for, so I pulled up stakes and left. As a second class power engineer the most I made at NSP was $55,000, not a lot when you have a mortage, car payment, highest cost of living in Canada, highest taxes, etc. Last year I made here in Fort Mac $208,000, now you know why people want to see N.S. in thier rearview mirror.

  • IP Knightly
    February 15, 2013 - 17:18

    GORDON SCHUMWAY I am being generous in saying they might pay 20 percent of the cost in this sespool of Keyes economics gone mad. A Billion dollars into Higher Education in this province Gordon. That is over 10 percent of the provincial budget and each and every year we borrow plus pay nearly a billion in Interest. Try finding a course like this in a similar United States College that is so cheap . Bet you can't do that !!!!!. Again the unknowing and ungrateful take take take and then leave the province for greener pastures.

  • Concerned Citizen
    February 15, 2013 - 13:17

    Can you blame anyone for leaving? We have amongst the highest costs for gas, oil, electricity, goceries and taxes. Add to that we have amongst the longest waits to get into seniors homes, get surgeries or even see a doctor. And now lets throw in that we are amongst the lowest wages and benefits in the country. Oh but remember that last couple summers Harper gave all the little towns back some of their own tax dollars for flower pots and rust buckets for their main streets - that should keep everyone from moving out west.

  • Cheryl
    February 15, 2013 - 11:21

    Paramedics please be very careful with your choice as Alberta is going through lots of "clamp-downs" within the Health Care System !

  • IP knightly
    February 15, 2013 - 11:17

    We have a huge problem in this province called too much government for the Tax Revenues generated in the Private Sector. I don't belittle what these professionals have to do but could we possibly tie people getting training for their vocations only paying 20 percent of the cost of their educations to have these opportunities? It should be a Requirement that grads service 5 to 10 years in Nova Scotia before they leave for Greener pastures. We have too many Universities and colleges that the taxpayer is paying over a billion dollars annually and then our newly minted professionals are walking to lower tax Provinces . Again I cant blame these people for doing whats in their best interest but please remember the Citizens who per capita make 34,000 dollars of Gross Domestic Product in Nova Scotia.

    • Gordon Schumway
      February 15, 2013 - 11:57

      To IP Knightly: I challenge you to find a paramedic course that is 80% subsidized like you say. Paramedicine is a "trade" where the student pays their own way in full.

  • Ckyjohn
    February 15, 2013 - 11:00

    MJB you could not be further from reality. In the case of other provinces where there is actual economic activity including Newfoundland and Alberta they have what are called royalties which this government and previous ones in Nova Scotia have forgotten about when dealing with the offshore and mining etc... Add to that a seeming inability to bring natural gas to our own province for industry and home heating instead of shipping everything to Boston, add a high tax burden, not supporting small and medium sized businesses and looking for future vision through a straw and you get the picture. It is not just paramedics that are leaving the province, it is anyone with any trade or profession that is able to....

  • MJB
    February 15, 2013 - 09:36

    People are funny. Everyone moans that the government is not putting enough money toward X or Y. Then the same people moan when the government raises taxes to pay for things. You can't have both low taxes and the government funding everything to the hilt.

  • So True
    February 15, 2013 - 08:53

    That is so true Johnny Smoke! I sent a letter to Mr. David Wilson back in August 2012 expressing some concerns and asking for a relpy. It is now February 2013 that's right six months later and I've not even received a form letter in reply. It is a source of amusement for me to see Premier Darrell Dexter in his PR campaign spouting about improvements to health care......you could fertilize your lawn with what he is spouting. He was also copied on said letter and you guessed it.....no reply from him either.

  • Johnny smoke
    February 15, 2013 - 07:32

    Your chances to contacting David Wilson are about as good as contacting Shubenacadie Sam after ground hog day is over. You see Sam only appears occasionally for special events, it is the same with Mr. Wilson who pops up on occasion uttters some incoherent drivel from a prepared text then retreats to the halls of some government building surrounded by public servants who nod and sprout the same drivel as their boss. It is called reading from the same page in the world of politics. In the real word it is called mismanagement and the true cause for the exit of our first line medical care professionals. Meanwhile countless children go without life and limb saving insulin pumps, not much reply regarding that either, I guess we will have to wait for some special occasion now that groundhog day has passed. How about the election day announcement would that be glitzy enough?