If a pandemic broke out in Waterloo region and the province called on all healthcare providers to help provide immunizations to residents, paramedics would not be able to help.
"Although we give injections on a daily basis, we're skilled in that area, we would not be able to help and participate in that measure because we're not self-regulated," Rob Theriault, a former critical care paramedic and the former president of the Ontario Paramedics Association, told Morning Edition host Craig Norris in an interview.
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Paramedics, Theriault explained, work under a delegation model, meaning they are given permission by one of two provincial regulatory bodies to perform specific medical acts in certain emergency situations.
The Ontario Paramedics Association is asking the provincial government to do away with that delegation model and create a college of paramedics, an authority that would regulate the entire profession, similar to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
'In many ways we are over regulated, we're inconsistently regulated and we're completely unregulated.' - Rob Thierault, former president of the Ontario Paramedics Association
The two regulatory bodies for paramedic services in the province are the emergency health services branch of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and eight base hospital programs, which are funded and accountable to the ministry.
"In many ways we are over regulated, we're inconsistently regulated and we're completely unregulated," Theriault said.
He added there are also some paramedics who work in the private sector and are not covered under Ontario's two regulatory bodies.
"The group outside of paramedic services is a group we're a little bit worried about because we … know they're not held to the same standard. They don't go through the same annual recertification process, they're not required to do the same continuing education program and it's that combination of two regulators for paramedic services and no regulator for the group outside," he said.
"The public has no idea, when they see someone wearing a paramedic shirt outside of a paramedic service, they have no idea if they're held to any standard."
Up to health minister to decide
The move for paramedics to self-regulate the profession under a college is not something everyone supports. Some unions, including members of CUPE, have spoken out against the idea of regulatory college. Others are concerned a college would add an extra layer of bureaucracy, although advocates say in fact it would decrease the red tape. A college would include all paramedics and would also protect the title of paramedic to be used by only those who are in good standing with the college.
The move to a college would also be in line with other provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
When premier Kathleen Wynne was asked about a related first-responders issue – whether firefighters should be attending medical emergency calls – she stated that the provincial government's objective is to ensure "people in this province, when they are in an emergency situation, get the very top care and the highest quality safety reaction."
Theriault, who is now a professor for the paramedic program at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., said the association has applied to the province for permission to form the college and they have been discussing it for three years. He said it is hoped Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins will make a decision soon.
"It's a wait and see at this point," Theriault said.