Negotiations continue to avoid work stoppage
Cumberland County's three collaborative emergency centres will close overnight if the province's paramedics go on strike.
AMHERST – A strike by paramedics will lead to the overnight closure of collaborative emergency centres at three Cumberland County hospitals.
Cumberland Health Authority spokeswoman Ann Keddy said the CECs will continue to function as normal during the day, but would be closed overnight.
“Our fingers are crossed they will reach a settlement, but if there is a strike it will result in the closure of the CECs during the overnight hours,” Keddy said Friday.
Earlier Friday, the union representing the province’s 800 paramedics said it would delay potential strike action until 10 a.m. Sunday while the two sides continue to work toward a new collective agreement.
The CECs, which have opened at the All Saints Hospital in Springhill, North Cumberland in Pugwash and South Cumberland in Parrsboro, normally operate during the overnight hours with a registered nurse and paramedic with physician oversight.
During the day, a doctor works in collaboration with a nurse practitioner.
The union was in position to go off the job on Saturday, but opted to wait a day.
The union and Emergency Medical Care Inc. are negotiating with the help of provincially-appointed mediator John Clarke.
Outstanding issues for the union include wages and a demand for defined-benefit pensions instead of defined-contribution plans. It also wants a three-year deal, instead of a five-year contract being proposed by the employer.
The paramedics have been without a contract since 2011.
EMC says it has a contingency plan in place should the paramedics strike. Managers, who are licensed paramedics, would provided limited ambulance services, and only time critical emergencies would see an ambulance respond.
Keddy said traffic at the three hospitals has steadily decreased since the CECs were opened and suggested people are always advised to call 911 when experiencing an emergency.
“If you need emergency care you should always call 911, but if it’s something that can wait go to the CEC the next morning,” she said.
She also pointed out people can call 811 if they’re unsure of what they should do.