Friday, November 6, 2009

I don't really like to go on the internet and bitch about it as Peter Griffin suggests, but I feel compelled to at least comment on this abrupt and disappointing end to the BCAS Paramedic strike.

First, I don't work for BCAS. I'm originally from Alberta and recently (as in 3 months ago) moved to Vancouver Island for university. I did my EMR, then EMT training in Alberta, and worked full-time and casually for a few different services throughout the province for about a year and a half. I didn't have any difficulty finding a full-time position immediately after licensure. I did, however, decide to commute to northern Alberta to work for a remote basic-life-support ambulance service on a native reserve for my first year of EMS. Although Calgary EMS was definitely an option for me, I felt I should follow the advice of senior medics and instructors, and go cut my teeth at a rural BLS service before I worried about working for an urban service. Even though I was away from home nearly all the time, I made a very decent wage, which was augmented by working casual shifts at more proximal services. For the trade off of driving 8 hours twice a month to work, I was compensated for it, and had the opportunity to gain some experience and hone my skills before I moved on to a service in my own community. I did this because I thought it benefited my career, not because I had to, which makes all the difference. There was no 6 month probationary period, no $2/hr pager pay, no union dues, and no requirement of scattered shift-work for five years until the possibility of a full-time position. Imagine how many graduating doctors there would be if this were the job prospects for them...

The reason this strike bothers me is that all the young men and women recently out of high-school, looking for an exciting and challenging career will doubtfully choose EMS in B.C. with the state it's currently in. The advice I give to new EMRs is to do their EMT training in Alberta and continue to work there, so they can actually take home a viable paycheck and serve the community in which they actually live. They can fully enjoy and be challenged by working EMS in a full capacity, without worrying if the power will be turned off when they get home. I honestly think the current system BCAS has in place does little to attract prospective paramedics, and to be honest, I don't think the union helps either. A paramedic's rank and value in a service should not be determined by hire date, but rather their technical skills, knowledge, work ethic, and patient care ability.

This government's decision to forcibly end the strike will only prove to band-aid this plethora of mounting issues that are clearly caused by perpetual mismanagement, bureaucratic ignorance, and incompetent planning.

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