Opinion by PHIL MCHUGH, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
The decision last month by paramedics in Montreal and Laval to invoke pressure tactics against Urgences Santé to protest against the lack of ambulance resources is just one part of a larger problem with ambulance services in this province.
I have worked as a primary care paramedic with Urgences Santé for the past six years, and every year seems to be worse than the last.
Our response times have been unacceptable for quite some time now, and no one seems to be noticing.
However, there is a bigger problem here in Quebec, and it’s what we are doing once we arrive on the scene of an emergency.
Quebec is the only place in North America (aside from New Brunswick) where advanced care paramedics are not part of the operational routine. The rest of Canada has three levels of paramedics: primary, advanced and critical. Advanced care paramedics have more training than primary care paramedics and are able to bring the hospital emergency room, so to speak, out onto the road with them.
I completed my advanced care course in Ontario, a program that is accredited in all of Canada but not in Quebec, where it has been stuck at the pilot-project stage since 2001. Urgences Santé and the Quebec government fail to recognize my training, and keep me at the level of primary care paramedic.
For the last year, I have had to sit on my hands and watch as patients had seizures while being transported to the hospital, because I am not allowed to administer medication.
If you fall and fracture your hip in another province, the treatment you will get includes use of a scoop (a device that goes underneath you to lift you off of the floor), an IV, morphine for the pain and anti-nausea medication if you need it.
In Quebec, by contrast, you will be put in a vacuum mattress (a device that becomes rigid and acts as a full body cast), which requires a paramedic to turn you on your side, which is extremely painful if you have a hip fracture.
Why is it that we are the highest taxed citizens in North America, yet we are the only ones that don’t have access to advanced pre-hospital care?
It’s time we stand up and start demanding that we get treated just as well as our neighbours in the rest of Canada. As for me, I’ve been forced to move, to work in a province that recognizes my training and that will allow me to properly treat my patients.
Phil McHugh is moving July 7 from Montreal to Calgary, to take a job as an advanced care paramedic. He has worked the last six years with Urgences Santé.