The Critical Worker Benefit provides a one-time payment of $1,200 to eligible Alberta healthcare workers. It was very unclear as to whether paramedics would be included (especially with the recent *cough* oversight during the vaccine rollout), so we posed the question to the government and we have recieved an answer.
The benefit will be distributed to more than 380,000 workers and it is confirmed that WILL include paramedics!
Want more info? HERE it is.
ST. PAUL – Concerns about the long hours being put in by some paramedics is being brought forward by the Alberta Paramedic Association.
On Dec. 8, Dusty Myshrall, president of the paramedic association, presented the County of St. Paul with information regarding core-flex shifts, stating the shifts present a “serious risk to public safety.” He noted that the term “core-flex” is unique to Alberta, and the definition of core-flex “can be very complicated.”
Myshrall explained that the most popular core-flex shift being seen in Alberta has some paramedics working four days straight – or 96 hours around the clock. Sometimes, these shifts extend beyond that time.
“How can paramedics work 96 hours?” asked Myshrall, hypothetically, stating the idea doesn’t seem to make sense. But, some labour standards have been waived for paramedics. He also explained that when an EMS crew reaches 14 hours, they are “out of service” for eight hours on mandatory rest.
When this mandatory rest occurs, the crew won’t even know if a call comes in for the community they are serving, which means a delay in response could occur as a crew from another community has to be called in.
Myshrall also stated that the clock only starts when a first call comes in. So, a crew could have a quiet morning and afternoon, then get called out at 2 p.m., and work for 14 hours before they are allowed to rest. This could mean that some crews are awake for a long period of time.
Sleep deprivation and sleep fragmentation can become issues. Myshrall also spoke about “sleep inertia.” Most people experience this state between 30 minutes and two hours of waking up, which can result in impaired cognitive performance. But in that time, an EMS crew could have already driven an ambulance through town, provided medical services to someone, and then brought a patient to the hospital.
A number of rural communities are on core-flex shifts, says Myshrall. He noted that while there has been plenty of discussion about urban areas going on code red for EMS services, the rural side is going on code red “on a daily basis.”
Ending core-flex shifts is the ultimate goal of the Alberta Paramedic Association, said Myshrall. The association is hoping for a resolution to be passed by the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).
Coun. Cliff Martin noted that core-flex was a contentious issue when it came out, but the unions were wanting the core-flex shift. Myshrall responded, saying there used to be a narrative that this shift was needed in smaller communities, but that is not the case.
Reeve Steve Upham brought up the idea that core-flex shifts have allowed paramedics from outside the area to work in the community, since they can come into town for four days at a time, then return home after their shift. He asked if there was a human resources issue at play.
Myshrall said he felt the resource was available, and taking out core-flex shifts would result in a staffing increase of about 20 per cent. But, he also acknowledged a “massive exodus” of paramedics because the work-life balance isn’t there when working 96 hours straight.
People can’t even have a dog at home if they are working four days in a row, says Myshrall.
Coun. Kevin Wirsta thanked Myshrall for bringing the issue forward to council.
“I think there really needs to be a change,” said Wirsta.
After the delegation, council brought the issue forward but tabled any decisions so administration could gather more information into what exactly was being requested.
‘They are at constant risk and must have access to supports and protections’
Paramedics are calling on the government of Alberta to expedite COVID-19 vaccinations for members of their profession.
They are not among the health-care workers receiving vaccinations this month, and it’s not clear when they will be immunized.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA) both say they are seeking clarity from the provincial government. The HSAA also raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
Both associations hope to be included in the second part of the first phase in January or February.
“Our paramedics are responding to the most critical COVID-19 patients,” Mike Parker, president of HSAA, said in an emailed statement to CBC. “They are at constant risk and must have access to supports and protections to ensure they can continue to be there for Albertans facing a medical emergency.”
Dusty Myshrall, president of the Alberta Paramedic Association, said paramedics are put at risk by constantly changing environments and challenges with wearing personal protective equipment.
He said paramedics go from someone’s house or a long-term care facility into the confined space of an ambulance while performing treatments. Their patients often end up in emergency rooms.
Part of the role of a paramedic is performing intubations on COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure, Myshrall said.
“We know that that’s a huge risk for transmission of COVID-19,” Myshrall said. “When we see it done in a hospital, typically that could be in a more controlled environment. Paramedics are doing this in a situation with limited resources, in an uncontrolled environment.
“Paramedics are increasingly at risk here with COVID-19 and they should be vaccinated.”
The province said with limited doses of the vaccine available, it is starting with those who are most vulnerable, and the health-care workers who treat them.
“I think it’s really important to know that the decisions about the first phase of vaccine were focused on individuals who were at the highest risk of severe outcomes, those who are in close contact with those individuals and the groups within the health-care system where there are critical pressures,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said Monday when asked about the decision not to include paramedics in the first wave.
Hinshaw said paramedics provide critical services and decisions about phase two of the vaccination rollout won’t be made until next year.