28 days later is too late

It’s been one month since volunteer ambulance attendants in Watson Lake and Dawson City walked off the job in frustration.

It’s been one month since volunteer ambulance attendants in Watson Lake and Dawson City walked off the job in frustration.

Since then, both communities have been running on skeleton ambulance crews sent in by the government.

And, as Yukon government employees, those crews are taking wages from the territory. They will make between $55,000 and $58,000 in salary annually.

Meanwhile, their volunteer counterparts, who slogged away shackled to their radios 24-7 for years, have still not been afforded the same respect.

That’s insulting.

In Watson Lake, the government ponied up the cash to bring in two trained paramedics from Outside to cover the slack until the dispute is resolved.

It hired another attendant to cover Dawson.

How much has the government spent so far to pay the interim workers?

The News could not reach Health Minister Brad Cathers for comment on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Sending the interim crews to the two towns was a stopgap measure.

A month later it has worn thin.

And community members feel like “mushrooms” left in the dark on the government’s plans.

“We’re all in the dark here — they’re treating us like mushrooms,” Watson Lake CAO Rick Harder told the News.

It appears the higher-ups in government are in no hurry to find a solution to the volunteers’ concerns.

Since the walkout, a team of six attendants — chosen to represent volunteers in the territory’s 14 communities — has worked together to come to an agreement.

After weeks of talks, the group submitted a proposal to the government on July 30.

Ten days later, as of Thursday afternoon, the group hadn’t heard any response.

The government put out 21 news releases between July 9 — when the Watson Lake attendants walked off — and August 6.

None of them had anything to do with the ambulance attendant crisis the two towns were facing.

On August 6 — 28 days later — came a release promising the territory would “modernize” its emergency response system.

“The time has come to upgrade the Yukon government’s emergency services to provide a well-coordinated first response to emergencies in our communities,” Premier Dennis Fentie is quoted as saying in the release.

We’d say that time had come long before frustration forced ambulance attendants to walk off the job.

The release also called for more consultation with “First Nations, municipalities, ambulance and firefighting volunteers, and other stakeholders.”

It also said the government would canvass communities to entice new volunteers into service.

“Over the years, Yukon’s volunteers have done an excellent job in providing emergency services on behalf of the Yukon public,” Fentie said.

“It is time to take a more integrated approach that reduces the burden on them.”

That’s good to hear.

Fentie should have said it 28 days ago. (LC)

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