Health care unions criticize Rapid Response Unit pilot program

A pair of health care unions with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are calling a new pilot program in New Brunswick nothing more than a public relations stunt.

Health Minister Benoit Bourque announced a Rapid Response Unit pilot program two weeks ago to "improve access to emergency medical care in rural areas", starting this fall.

A lone primary care paramedic will be dispatched to 911 calls in his or her assigned region and will stabilize patients until an ambulance arrives.

Local 1252 president Norma Robinson, representing the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions, says in a press release the program might make sense if there weren't over 100 full-time paramedic positions currently vacant.

She says the pilot program will be taking a fully staffed ambulance, which requires two certified paramedics, and place it out of service as fifteen bilingual paramedics will be taken out of an already strained system to staff non-transport units.

Gregory McConaghy, president of Local 4848 which represents Paramedics and Dispatchers in the province, says government and Medavie should be dealing with the root causes of inadequate emergency response time.