WHISTLER – Unlike many B.C. residents, visiting Olympic athletes get more than a skeleton crew when it comes to ambulance services. B.C.’s Ambulance Paramedics report they are being forced to provide levels of service for Olympics tests that many citizens of B.C. don’t receive.
Representatives of the 3,500 striking paramedics are setting up a picket line at the Sliding Centre in Whistler today to publicize the need for the provincial government to focus on providing the best possible emergency services for the people of B.C.
The CUPE 873 members point to a BC Labour Relations Board order that says they must staff Olympic test events, including today’s Sliding Centre test for luge , bobsleigh and skeleton. The test calls for three ambulances, including one with advanced life support, while Whistler Village itself normally gets only two regular ambulances on hand.
Ambulance Paramedics president John Strohmaier said the Olympics tests illustrate the province’s attitude towards ambulance services. “We have been calling on the B.C. government for four years to deal with the critical condition of ambulance services and we have been on strike since April 1 for improved staffing levels and better response times. Despite this, the government appears more willing to provide top services for visiting athletes than for its own citizens.”
“We believe that if the government was serious about providing the best ambulance service possible it would focus on all our citizens, not just visiting elite athletes.”
Ambulance Paramedics spokesperson BJ Chute added that the province has yet to discuss any specific plans with paramedics for staffing the actual Olympics in February.