Toronto paramedics want the province to declare them an essential service, arguing it will save more lives.

The Toronto Paramedic Association (TPA) made the public statement yesterday shortly after a tentative agreement was announced in the city’s 35-day strike.

As an essential service, labour issues involving paramedics would go directly to arbitration, as with police officers and firefighters. They would also be given the ability to retire early because of the physical demands of the job, said Roberta Scott, a TPA spokesperson.

The city strike was particularly trying for Toronto’s paramedics, who came under scrutiny after witnesses said it took it more than 30 minutes to respond to Jim Hearst, who lay dying of a heart attack in his apartment building as neighbours tried to save him on June 25.

Bruce Farr, chief of Toronto EMS, maintains it took paramedics 9 minutes to respond to Hearst, and that they delayed entering the building because of unspecified health and safety concerns.

The Ontario Paramedic Association will join the TPA in lobbying for the change, that would make EMS an essential service across the province.

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