Burnout a big issue for paramedics in Ontario

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Paramedics across Ontario say they're burning out due to poor working conditions, and local officials are calling for action now. 

Emergency medical services across Canada are in serious trouble, as one COVID surge after another puts more and more stress onto a system that was showing signs of cracks before the pandemic started.

James Jovanovic, President of CUPE Local 2974, says not only is this a serious issue for paramedics but for the communities they serve.

"And it's really not only a local issue, but it is taking place across the province where we're seeing this increased rate of burnout. We're certainly not the only sector experiencing this, obviously many are through the pandemic, but really we were on this trajectory already prior to the pandemic. The last two years have only exacerbated that problem."

Jovanovic says this needs to be addressed on a local, municipal level but also at a provincial level.

"The system that's in place has unjustifiably kept paramedicine below that of other emergency responders, but also healthcare workers. So over the last 10 to 15 years we've seen a suppression of the profession where now we're incredibly understaffed."

A recent study from the Canadian Occupational Projection System estimates there's a need for another 4,000 paramedics, but Jovanovic says they're seeing enrolment in colleges decreasing.

He says our local paramedics are some of the best around, but they're struggling right now too.

"And as resilient as they try to be and go about their job, we're still seeing them suffer in silence, so we're trying to shine some light on that. But we're also having a huge retention problem."

Jovanovic says call times have been affected by the issues, leading to lengthier responses and more frequent code reds and blacks.