AMHERST – Paramedics in Nova Scotia will be in a strike position at midnight tonight. If a strike occurs, it will affect health services in Cumberland, according to the health authority.
Calling a strike potentially very grim, Cumberland Health Authority spokesperson Ann Keddy said people with medical emergencies should continue to use 911, while those with non-emergency medical cases should avail themselves of 811. It’s Keddy’s understanding staffing for the 811 system will be boosted if there’s a strike.
Calling 911 is one thing. Response times could be another. All Saints CEC in Springhill and South Cumberland CEC in Parrsboro will be closed during overnight hours in the case of a strike. When asked how quickly a person in crisis in Advocate will get help, as an example, Keddy said it would depend on where the nearest ambulance is, but acknowledged there could be delays.
“It will be time before people get there,” she said.
Ambulances will still be operating, with Emergency Medical Care managers trained as paramedics attending the vehicles.
Keddy said the initial plan was for North Cumberland CEC in Pugwash to close overnight as well. The spokesperson credited physicians with making it possible for the centre to be open overnight Saturday and Sunday if need be (if a strike hits, that CEC will be closed from midnight tonight until 8 a.m. tomorrow, after which it will remain open).
The decision to keep Pugwash open was a result of looking at the number of people in the region who need the service and the distances involved.
Medical flights will be suspended in the event of a strike, except for children being taken to the IWK, according to Keddy.
Regular daytime hours at CECs will continue.
The provincial legislature has been called back this morning for a session to discuss the situation. Emergency Medical Care, employer of the paramedics, has distributed a fact sheet that says the EHS system will only be able to operate at approximately 24-per cent capacity in the event of a strike. On the ground, that means about 30 ambulances serving Nova Scotia – there’s usually over 100 – according to EMC’s director of provincial operations, former paramedic Jeffrey Fraser.