Winnipeg councillors request plan to add more paramedics, relieve EMS pressure

Winnipeg city councillors are searching for ways to bulk up paramedic staffing levels and relieve pressure on the emergency medical services system.

Winnipeg city councillors are searching for ways to bulk-up paramedic staffing levels and relieve pressure on the emergency medical services (EMS) system.

Councillor Sherri Rollins, of the Fort-Rouge East Fort Garry ward, put the motion forward, which passed unanimously at the Friday meeting of the standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks.

Rollins told councillors it’s a “two-pronged approach” to boost paramedic staffing levels.

The first involves quickly finding ways both internally and with the help of Shared Health to increase full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing, possibly by expanding the Emergency Paramedics in the Community (EPIC) program to take pressure off the EMS system.

EPIC services low-priority, non-emergent calls in the city.

The second “prong” calls for a plan for the city to assume more control over entry-level training and recruitment.

The motion says that could include adding classes within the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Training Branch, or through post-secondary programs.

“We are seeing some numbers in our staffing that we know can translate to Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in terms of work time losses and a trajectory with Omicron variant that is concerning and I think necessitates a more direct response from council,” Rollins said during Friday’s meeting.

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The move comes only a week after the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) raised concerns over the increasing number of hours ambulances are sitting idle due to staffing shortages.

Those concerns are mentioned in Rollins’ motion, but it also references staffing issues across the health-care system in general which could have a “trickle-down” effect, and COVID-related medical leaves within the WFPS.

WFPS Chief Christian Schmidt told councillors that as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday there were 74 WFPS members “throughout the organization” with active COVID-19 who are currently away from work.

But, he informed 680 CJOB that’s not the only way the virus is straining resources.

“When things start to get busy in these emergency departments, the physicians and nurses start to really have to look around for beds within hospitals to move the admitted patients,” Schmidt explained.

“When those beds aren’t available and those moves can’t take place, it makes it difficult for the staff to take over care (of patients) from our paramedics.”

The Winnipeg public service and WFPS have been directed to bring a report back in June.

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