Ottawa

Firefighters could come to aid of Wolfe Island's lone paramedic

The head of Frontenac Paramedic Services says volunteer firefighters could help fill the gap when there's only one paramedic on duty on Wolfe Island, Ont., this summer.

Proposal to be brought before paramedics' union Tuesday

One paramedic will be on staff in Wolfe Island, Ont., between July and August due to staffing issues. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The head of Frontenac Paramedic Services says volunteer firefighters could help fill the gap when there's only one paramedic on duty on Wolfe Island, Ont., this summer.

Paramedic chief Paul Charbonneau tabled the idea to the Frontenac County council on Wednesday, and was given permission to move forward with the proposal.

"There are still a lot of discussions to occur," Charbonneau told CBC's All In A Day.

He must now bring the project before the paramedics' union and the township.

Due to a staffing shortage, a single paramedic will service the entire population of Wolfe Island during July and August.

Charbonneau wants to use volunteer firefighters as a last resort to drive the ambulance when a patient needs to go to the hospital.

"They are all licensed to drive their fire trucks, which are larger vehicles, so in terms of that skill of driving a larger vehicle they are obviously capable."

Charbonneau said they would also provide them some orientation training if the project goes through, but most importantly it would free up the paramedic to attend to the patient in the back.

Resistance from union

There has yet to be a formal meeting with the paramedic union, but Charbonneau expects some resistance from them because it would replace the paid work of a paramedic with volunteers. 

He said he will meet with the union and try to negotiate, but will proceed with the plan now that the county's permission is in place if he absolutely needs to.

"When there is a family member that needs to get to the hospital, I don't think the family member cares that a firefighter is driving the ambulance, and there's a fully qualified, skilled, well-equiped paramedic in the back." 

But he is not entirely throwing out the possibility of reaching an agreement to have two paramedics on to operate an ambulance.

"If we've got paramedics in the bargaining unit that want to go to Wolfe Island, I'll pay them overtime, I'll pay them premiums, I'll pay them whatever we have to do. But ultimately if I need to get a patient to the hospital I need to get a patient to the hospital."

Charbonneau will meet with the union on Tuesday.

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