Yukon EMS has been in the news a lot lately. And it’s a good thing. Paramedics are the unsung heroes of emergency services and the medical field. They deserve some limelight and recognition for their dedicated service and unparalleled life-saving skills. When people call 911, they are more often than not seeking emergency medical services. While firefighters are often lauded in the glorious role of hero for extricating victims from a mangled car wreck, the paramedics are the ones who provide the essential medical services to save that life, and keep that victim alive on the way to the hospital. And that’s on a good day.
Paramedics are the first line of defence for social services and social medicine. They see the worst of society multiple times through their 10- to 14-hour shifts. They are on call 24/7. They provide professional and compassionate care to the downtrodden and delinquents of society. And they provide the same level of care to those who would rather ignore and exclude them from their society.
Paramedics are spit on, bled on, vomited on, and physically and verbally assaulted while delivering an uncompromised standard of medical care. Paramedics witness everyone’s worst nightmares. They work desperately to save victims of childhood trauma as if it’s their own child on the stretcher. They work on heart attack victims as if it’s their own father’s or husband’s heart they are bringing back to life. They work on frail elders and grandparents, hoping their own family gets the same level of care when it is needed.
But this service has a cost. Many Canadian provinces have done away with government-run emergency medical services to cut health-care costs. Some jurisdictions have auctioned off this service to the lowest private-sector bidder, which are often based Outside.
Other jurisdictions in Canada have a ratio of one ambulance to a population of 30,000 people. Given the population of the Yukon, that would mean one to two ambulances for the entire population of the territory.
Whitehorse and outlying communities like Marsh Lake would be allocated a single ambulance.
But the Yukon isn’t like other jurisdictions in Canada. We are a unique territory and population spread out through remote and mountainous terrain. But our population expects a service comparable to other jurisdictions Ã prompt, efficient emergency medical care. But at what cost is our government willing to invest in this life-saving service? Are we being shortchanged with lives on the line?