FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 31, 2001
ambulance will "Walkertonize" the skies, OPSEU says
TORONTO - The Ontario government's plan
to privatize air ambulance services threatens to "Walkertonize"
the province's emergency air response system, says the union
representing air ambulance personnel.
The Ontario Ministry of Health disclosed
today that as of Oct. 1, it will transfer the province's helicopter and
fixed-wing air ambulance services to two private companies, Canadian
Helicopters Ltd. and Voyageur Airways Ltd.
"Private carriers have not
demonstrated that they can safely carry our sick and injured
people," said Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public
Service Employees Union. "Air ambulance is one area where you can
make fatal mistakes, and where you can't cut corners to make a
More than 100 OPSEU members face layoff
as a result of the privatization. Few of the current experienced
paramedical staff employed by the Ministry of Health, with a combined
300 years of experience, have opted to go to the private
"When you see those orange
helicopters flying into Sick Kids' Hospital, you know they need the
highest trained professionals possible," Casselman said.
"These are the most highly trained paramedics in the
province," said Casselman. "They are the equivalent of
intensive care units in the air."
"Like Walkerton, the government is
playing with people's lives. This is another disaster just waiting to
Voyageur Airways has a questionable
safety record dating back to 1988 when four people, including two
paramedics, were killed in a chartered airplane crash near Chapleau in
"There is no possible way that
enough new Critical Care Flight Paramedics can be trained to replace the
seasoned professionals that presently provide this vital emergency
service to the public in Ontario," said Darryl Taylor, a CCFP at
the Sudbury air ambulance base and unit steward in OPSEU Local
"There is absolutely no excuse to
unnecessarily endanger the patients we serve in this way," he said.
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For further information:
Darryl Taylor: (705) 521-7335