Paramedic job vacancies in rural Manitoba have tripled in the last two years, MAHCP says

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Data released this week by the union representing rural Manitoba paramedics is showing job vacancies have more than tripled over the last two years and in some areas of the province ambulance response times continue a steady rise as people wait longer for emergency services.

“Manitobans are waiting dangerously long for emergency medical care,” Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) President Jason Linklater said in a Thursday news release.

“We have been calling for action to address critical paramedic staffing shortages for years, but it has only gotten worse.”

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On Thursday, MAHCP, the union that represents rural paramedics in Manitoba, released data obtained from Shared Health through Freedom of Information (FIPPA) requests.

According to the union, the data shows that rural paramedics were taking up to 30% longer to respond to “the most serious medical emergencies” in some areas of the province, including in the Interlake-Eastern and Prairie Mountain regions, compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, the last time the government publicly reported response compliance data.

“The highest response times and the most dramatic increases are in the Prairie Mountain and Interlake-Eastern regions, where many Manitobans will be travelling this summer,” Linklater said.

The data also shows that nearly one in three full-time and part-time rural paramedic positions are now vacant in Manitoba, with 499 out of 717 total positions currently filled.

“The rural paramedic vacancy rate has risen dramatically in a short period of time, more than tripling in the past two years from 8% in December 2020 to 30% of positions unfilled by January 2023,” Linklater said.

“Shared Health has seen a significant net loss of 108 full-time and part-time paramedics in that period.”

Emergency call volumes have also increased, according to MAHCP, with data showing an average increase of 50% in the number of emergency medical calls across all rural regions compared to 2018.

Linklater said MAHCP continues to be concerned that increased wait times, increased calls, and fewer employed paramedics will lead to some in rural Manitoba not receiving adequate emergency care when they need it.

“Emergency call volumes are up, response times are up, the number of rural paramedics available to respond is way down,” Linklater said. “MAHCP is calling on the Manitoba government to take immediate steps in order to retain the experienced paramedics still working today and begin rebuilding rural EMS.

“With more people on the highways in the summer, and significant paramedic vacancies that continue to rise, Manitobans need action now.”

Complaints about emergency response times in rural Manitoba have also been coming directly from the front lines recently, as a rural paramedic who works in the Prairie Mountain region spoke to the Winnipeg Sun in April, but did not want their identity revealed out of fear of repercussions from their employer.

The paramedic claimed they are seeing staff shortages and worse working conditions leading to increased wait times for those looking for emergency care.

“We still have trucks responding upwards of 150 kilometres from their home station to 9-1-1 calls,” the paramedic said.

“These staff shortages will result in avoidable deaths eventually.”

Shared Health did not respond to a request for comment.

Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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