Paramedic ‘mass exodus’ could leave Mississauga and Brampton at risk, union warns

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Published December 5, 2023 at 9:15 am

Breaking up the Region of Peel could lead to a shortage of paramedics and jeopardize emergency medical services in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, according to a union boss and Mayor Patrick Brown.

Peel Paramedic Union OPSEU 277 is sounding the alarm about the decision to split Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon into stand-alone municipalities, saying the dissolution brings added job insecurity to an already short-staffed roster of paramedics.

And with Peel Paramedics already short-staffed, the union says uncertainty around the split means there is “a real risk of a mass exodus from Peel.”

“The uncertainty caused by the dissolution is affecting the recruitment and retention of paramedics in Peel,” said president of Peel Paramedic Union OPSEU 277 Dave Wakely.

Wakely is urging local and provincial governments, the provincial transition board and the community “to collaborate in ensuring that we do not compromise the quality and availability of paramedic care in Peel.”

The warning comes just days after Mayor Brown said the split could come with the largest tax increase in Peel Region’s history and over $1 billion in operating costs.

Calling the plan a “financial train wreck,” Brown claims new numbers show the split “would see catastrophic financial impacts” on taxpayers with a one-time tax increase of 38 per cent.

Questions have been raised around costs, shared services and the future of regional workers following the province’s announcement earlier this year that it would dissolve the Region of Peel and separate Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon into single-tier municipalities.

Named the Hazel McCallion Act after the former Mississauga mayor who championed the split for year, Brampton and Caledon have both said the dissolution is not something they asked for, while Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie welcomed the split before taking a leave of absence to pursue the provincial Liberal leadership.

The union now says timing of the split is an issue for hiring and retention, with paramedic hiring in Ontario typically following an annual cycle starting in December or January with new paramedics commencing work from April to June.

But with the Peel split set to take hold on Jan. 1, 2025, the union says Peel’s paramedics “face uncertainty about their future employment, risking a potential exodus of experienced paramedics by June 2024.”

The union says Peel Paramedics could only fill 68 out of 100 positions last year, losing some recruits “to other employers even before completing orientation.”

First responders are already dealing with a massive volume of 911 calls and dispatchers are struggling with what Peel Regional Police have called a “bottleneck” of emergency calls.

And with 51 other ambulance services in Ontario “offering more stability,” the union says Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon could potentially be left “without sufficient paramedics to deliver essential life-saving services in the summer of 2024.”

he union is calling on the municipalities, the transition board and the province to ensure that the transition doesn’t compromise the quality and availability of paramedic care in Peel.

The union says there are 850 paramedics working in the Region of Peel who responded to some 10,855 calls in Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon in September alone.

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