Paramedics pressured to use faulty gear, survey finds

More than one-third of Manitoba's paramedics say they have been pressured to use equipment that may be faulty, according to a survey obtained by CBC News.

More than one-third of Manitoba's paramedics say they have been pressured to use equipment that may be faulty, according to a survey of paramedics obtained by CBC News.

The survey of 346 paramedics, conducted by Viewpoints Research last month for the Manitoba General Employees Union, raises concerns about their working conditions.

About 35 per cent of paramedics who were surveyed said they were often or sometimes pressured by their employers "to operate equipment which is or may be faulty."

Just under 40 per cent of paramedics surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "There is not enough time to check equipment, restock, clean up or do paperwork before shifts and between calls."

That figure went up to 80 per cent among surveyed paramedics in Winnipeg alone.

"Paramedics are generally showing up for work and immediately being sent out on calls, because there's a need," Chris Broughton, president of the MGEU local that represents Winnipeg paramedics, told CBC News.

"There isn't the time to spend checking the truck, and making sure the equipment is there, all functional and ready to go."

The Viewpoints survey was conducted between March 14 and 22 and involved 346 paramedics across the province. The results are considered accurate within 4.26 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The MGEU says it represents about 700 paramedics outside Winnipeg and roughly 300 within the city.

Fatigue raised as an issue

The survey found that 74.7 per cent of paramedics outside Winnipeg agreed or strongly agreed that they're "exhausted by extended hours of work due to combined standby and shifts."

MGEU officials told CBC News last month that fatigue is jeopardizing their safety, and they want a mandatory cap on the number of consecutive hours they can work.

Just over 82 per cent of all survey respondents said the volume of work they face means they miss meals and other breaks.

Broughton said his members are worried that their concerns will go unheard.

Paramedics in Winnipeg are overseen by the City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, and the Manitoba government, so it's tricky to hold someone accountable, Broughton said.

"The only way we're going to experience positive change in the industry is if people die and there's an inquest," he said.

The MGEU has been pressuring the province to launch a provincewide review of its emergency medical services.

A provincial government official told CBC News that "preliminary fact-finding is now underway within the department," and the review should be formally launched later this spring or early this summer.