A tentative funding agreement between the province and the Community Ambulance Operators Association is something that was needed at this time, says Robert Cormier.
Cormier is manager of the Cape St. George Ambulance Service, which he says is vital because it’s located around 55 kilometres from the nearest hospital — Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville.
“We have very good people, who are well trained, providing a very good service,” Cormier said. “They treat the people they serve very well.”
The provincial government announced Tuesday it reached a tentative funding agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Community Ambulance Operators Association, which represents community-based, non-profit ambulance operators across the province.
The agreement includes a total increase in funding of $1.6 million over the term of the agreement, and base wage increases for ambulance attendants. It’s valid until April 2017 and includes funding for a $1 per hour base wage increase in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“We would have like to have seen the agreement retroactive for a year, however we’ve been anxious waiting for this agreement now for two years and we’re happy to hear the funding is going ahead,” he said.
Cormier said this will help out with the wages for emergency medical responders and primary care paramedics because, up to this point, there was only money for three full-time employees or equivalent and they’ve been using that funding to pay four employees.
He said they will now be getting funding for four full-time employees, so that should get them closer to the wages they should be paid.
“We do have some catching up to do,” he said, referring to the wages.
Cormier said with the overall funding, the committee — which is separate from the town council — is hoping to set aside some money for a newer ambulance in the near future.
The committee that oversees the ambulance service has six members, including a representative of the ambulance workers, and the committee gives a monthly report to the town council, which is the body that signs the contract for the operation of the service.
Playing catch up
Wayne Deaves, one of the ambulance operators, said he believes the overall contact offered is good for the emergency medical responders and primary care paramedics.
However, he also recognized the service is playing catch up, and hopes that once the block funding all gets sorted out that it will be an improvement.
“Our service here in the community has improved by 100 per cent, especially now that we have two each of emergency medical responders and primary care paramedics providing 24-hour coverage,” Deaves said.
The tentative agreement outlines funding amounts of approximately $5.4 million in 2014-15, $5.6 million in 2015-16, and $5.8 million in 2016-17, and will be finalized in the coming weeks.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Community Ambulance Operators Association represents 22 ambulance operators across the province.