B.C.’s paramedics have been forced to end their seven-month strike, Health Minister Kevin Falcon said after he introduced legislation yesterday to restore full emergency care.
Paramedics have been operating under an essential-services order since they went on strike at the beginning of April. The legislation would see paramedics receive a one-year wage increase of three per cent, retroactive to April 1.
Falcon said the decision to table back-to-work legislation was difficult, but one made necessary by the H1N1 pandemic and stress on the health system.
But B.J. Chute, a spokesman for the paramedics’ union, questioned the timing of the legislation. The union was voting on the government’s offer and ballots were to be counted on Thursday and Friday.
Lee Doney, CEO of the emergency health services commission, said some communities, including Whistler, Comox and Campbell River, have had periods where no ambulances were available.
He said ambulance managers are working 80 hours a week, backfilling paramedics and management positions lost due to sickness and stress.
“The whole system starts to wear and tear,” Doney said. “After seven months it’s at a stage of frailty that ... we needed resolution to this matter.”
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