The provincial government’s decision to download part of the provincial ambulance dispatch system to the Niagara Region will only add to chronic staffing shortages, says the union that represents provincial ambulance dispatchers.
Today’s announcement that the province will build a new dispatch centre to be operated by the Niagara Region was greeted with anger by dispatchers at the Ministry of Health’s Hamilton Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC), who have been suffering short staffing and outdated equipment for years.
Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the decision to download the service to Niagara amounts to “political expediency.”
“It’s a Band-Aid approach. The problem isn’t with the province running ambulance dispatch, it’s that they haven’t invested in the system,” Casselman said “In Opposition, the Liberals recognized there was a problem that had to be fixed, but now all they’ve done is fixed one corner of the province. What are they doing about the rest of the
An October, 2001, report by IBI Group said the Hamilton CCAC was losing staff because of “high workload, stress and relatively low wages.” Provincial dispatchers earn up to $20,000 less than dispatchers at fire and police services. The Ministry of Health also recognizes that the new Niagara ambulance dispatch centre will face recruitment
problems “as a result of wage rates for police dispatch, fire dispatch and other allied agencies being significantly greater,” as its own report says.
Patrick Fry-Smith, dispatch director of the OPSEU Ambulance Division, said experienced dispatchers will be attracted to the higher wages and better working conditions offered by the Niagara centre, further eroding the provincial system.
“The province is going to spend twice as much money building a new dispatch centre in Niagara as what it would cost to fix the whole province,” Fry-Smith said.
For further information:
Patrick Fry-Smith, (289) 260-2326
Megan Park, OPSEU Communications: (416) 443-8888 ext 207