Sudbury paramedics facing more overtime, missed meals since 2013
City's emergency services committee wants to see correlation between increased overtime and sick leave
Does more fatigue, plus more hunger, equal more sick leave?
That's the equation Sudbury's emergency services committee wants to solve.
A new report from the city's emergency medical services shows a seven per cent increase in calls for services since 2013. The number of missed meals, hours of over time and hours of standby increased in the same period.
A standby is what happens when paramedics backfill vacant stations. The paramedics wait there in case any calls for services come in from the area. They can only leave once the regular crew comes back. In 2014, the service decided to automatically backfill stations in Chelmsford, Valley East and Walden to reduce response times there. That's why there's a significant increase in standby hours.
Calls bound to increase
But overall, deputy chief of EMS operations Aaron Archibald says he expects the trend to continue.
"Given that our population is aging, the call volumes will continue to rise," Archibald says. "We're seeing a 2.5 to three per cent rise in call volumes year over year."
Provincial changes have affected these rates, too, says Archibald. For example, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care recently made it mandatory for all paramedics to do their paper work before the end of shift.
Given that our population is aging, the call volumes will continue to rise.- Aaron Archibald, deputy chief of EMS operations
"When paramedics were on over time and coming back into shift the next day, we had flexibility to say your patient wasn't critical, you can do the paperwork tomorrow," says Archibald. "Now, the Ministry is saying no, all your documentation is done before the end of your shift. So we estimate that provincial changes will drive overtime."
Paramedics' health in question
Now, the emergency services committee is asking staff to prepare a sick and stress leave report. Councillors want to see how an increase in over-time and other factors correlate with the amount of leave paramedics are taking.
"At the end of the day, if paramedics aren't having their meals, yes they're getting compensated for that, but it's health," Coun. Mark Signoretti says. "And we all know that you need to eat to be productive."
Archibald says he's seen an increase in paramedics taking longer sick leave over the past year. The province's PTSD legislation probably plays into that, he says, but a paramedic's job isn't getting any easier.
"Part of the stress is not just responding to emergencies, but it's all of the other work," Archibald says. "Whether that regulatory requirements, certifications, paperwork and all the procedures management have in place."
The leave report is set to come back to the city's emergency services committee by its next meeting.