Ever had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, for that matter? Ever had to wait for hours for the ambulance to arrive – and then looked at your watch and figured it must have stopped because the hands say it’s less than 15 minutes since you made the call for help?
Maybe the better question should be: Have you ever been the stricken party who needed the emergency call made as you fought heart attack or stroke or injuries sustained in a fall or road accident? If you have ever been there you will remember how long it seemed to take for the paramedics to arrive and how unbelieving you were when told it was minutes not hours.
You should also remember the calm that arrived with the first responders as they went about their well-trained duties, controlled, efficient, in charge of the situation; however dire it may have been. You will remember for as long as memory lasts how you felt –
alone, frightened, deserted by the world; maybe threatened by the last great darkness – and how confident hands reached out and pulled you back into the light; and then wrapped you in warm blankets, gently strapped you to a stretcher, made sure you were snugged down tight in the waiting ambulance and transported with sirens wailing and warning lights flashing to the nearest centre where the full services of medical care could be provided.
If you had the opportunity and ability you probably thanked the attending paramedics – or hoped friends and family had – before they moved on to their next call. If, in the drama of the emergency you forgot, the above preamble is to recall your understandable oversight and suggest a way to make amends.
In British Columbia, fire fighters and policemen have long been declared essential services. Their unions are strong and negotiate freely with a binding arbitration process in place to settle collective agreement deadlocks. Under the Fire and Police Collective Bargaining Act the work force cannot strike and the employer cannot order a lock-out.
It has never been explained why public ambulance and paramedic services are not included in the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act. But excluded they have been – and continue to be – by successive NDP and Liberal governments.
But there is in BC what is called an “initiative process.” BC is the only province or territory to have one. In simple terms, it permits any registered voter to propose a new law or amend an existing law. Here is the address of the Elections BC site: http://elections.bc.ca/recall-initiative/initiative/
It is not an easy law to kick into action as citizens who have tried to implement the “recall of MLAs” section can attest. And as public service paramedics and ambulance workers are discovering as they attempt to correct a past government oversight and add ambulance and paramedic service to police and fire emergency services law.
To achieve that aim the Legislature requires that a petition be signed by 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the province’s electoral districts – not 10 per cent of the provincial total which is easier to achieve. Only when that mountain has been climbed will the people in power listen and move to frame a law based on the petitioned initiative.
So, if you have ever called for an ambulance and have good reason to say “thank you” to a paramedic crew, now is the time to do it. And if you have friends in electoral districts other than the one you live in, give them a shout. Tell them the paramedics need a shot of the support they so efficiently provide the rest of us 24/365. Make sure you are a registered voter before you sign the petition. The list will be audited.
Couldn’t the government just introduce an amended bill called the Ambulance, Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act, and thus make paramedics full members of the “emergency services” family? The answer is “yes.” A majority government can bring in whatever laws or amendments to laws it wishes. But no government since 1996 has shown a desire to make the simple changes. New Democrat Premiers Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Dan Miller, Ujjal Dosanjh and Liberals Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark have done nothing in the 21 years they have been in charge to give paramedics their due.
Maybe they never had to call on paramedic services, which leaves those of us who have, with a duty to perform. Find a petition in your electoral district and if you’re a registered voter, sign it. It’s the best way to say “thank you.”
And if you would like to offer more than a signature in the paramedics’ cause Google – Information – YourParamedics for everything you need to know about the petition, how to volunteer and donate if you feel inclined. One last thing: You must be a registered voter in BC to legitimately sign the petition — and I would hope that with a general election scheduled for May you have already made sure you are.