Union says overworked paramedics becoming public safety issue for Nova Scotia

The union for Nova Scotia's paramedics says its members are being overworked to the point that it's a public safety issue for the province.

Union business agent Mike Nickerson told the legislature's health committee today that paramedics are logging overtime hours ranging from one to six hours per shift, something he says "is just not safe."

He says the number one issue contributing to the problem is the offload delays at many hospital emergency departments in the province, because of a lack of acute care beds.

Nickerson says if that problem can be fixed even "somewhat," then a lot of the problems affecting paramedics will fix themselves.

The union also told the committee that the bottlenecks created by using ambulances for calls other than emergencies have cut into response times.

It says the standard response set in 1997 was eight minutes and 59 seconds and now many call responses are much longer, including one particular instance in Halifax where the response time was 58 minutes.