TORONTO — The number of Toronto paramedics who are saying no to overtime shifts to highlight the city's need for more EMS workers has doubled, says a spokesperson for a group concerned about the staffing crisis.
EMS worker Ken Horton says 300 of the city's 851 ambulance attendants have removed their names from a voluntary overtime call list as of Tuesday.
"We're understaffed," Horton said. "They keep denying that. When seconds count, we're 15 minutes away."
But Toronto EMS spokeswoman Kim McKinnon said it's only 60 workers and there's no cause for concern. "We've been responding with business as usual over the weekend," she said.
Toronto ambulances haven't been hitting industry standards for critical calls in recent years, according to a 2011 budget briefing note by Toronto EMS.
The current industry standard is 8:59 minutes. Toronto hit that target in 62 per cent of cases in 2010, down from 86 per cent in 1997. The report said the "deterioration in response times is largely the result of an increasing workload of emergency patient volumes and a static staffing level."
Patient volumes increased 47 per cent between 1998 and 2011, while only 10 paramedics have been hired since 2002. And staff overtime from 1999 to 2010 more than doubled, from $2 million to $5.2 million, according to the report.
"We're trying to give a strong message that they can't run this service on overtime," Horton said. The organization needed 62 new staff in 2011 just to ensure the status quo, according to the report.
McKinnon said council approved hiring 40 paramedics last week and training for the first class begins this month.