Ambulance attendants want paramedicine program at college

Rural Yukon ambulance attendants want to establish permanent paramedic training at Yukon College in Whitehorse.

Rural Yukon ambulance attendants want to establish permanent paramedic training at Yukon College in Whitehorse.

And they’re willing to use money from last fall’s labour negotiations to do it.

A component of last fall’s negotiation was an annual $60,000 bursary to allow rural volunteer ambulance attendants to train for “primary care paramedic” status.

To date, the attendants have accumulated a training budget of $120,000.

In the past, Yukon ambulance attendants seeking such paramedic training have had to leave the Yukon or fly in paramedical trainers from Outside.

Both options are expensive.

It can cost up to $15,000 per person, and sucks the bursary money outside the territory, said Neale Wortley, chief negotiator for the rural attendants.

By establishing a permanent paramedic training program at Yukon College, the attendants hope to foster an “educational legacy” that could, eventually, attract out-of-province students to study in the Yukon, said Wortley.

As well, the program could train Yukoners for paramedic positions in the private sector.

Yukon College already offers nursing courses. College officials have already indicated an interest in the development of a paramedic program.

“We have spoken with (the attendants) and we are moving forward,” said college spokesperson Jacqueline Bedard.

Even with an initial $120,000 commitment, as well as an additional annual commitment of $60,000, it is unlikely the existing bursary could cover the cost of establishing a paramedicine program at the college, said Wortley.

To date, Wortley has written both the Yukon government and Council of Yukon First Nations asking them to help fund a college paramedic course.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea … the program would help to standardize higher levels of training among Yukon ambulance attendants,” said Lori Duncan, CYFN’s director of Health and Social Services.

However, she added, financial support “is not an option at this time.”

Currently, Whitehorse is the only Yukon community where paramedic training is offered to ambulance attendants.

This was accomplished through a training team brought up from Alberta.

The current situation is a “double standard,” said Wortley.

“If you’re in Whitehorse and you call an ambulance, you get a certified paramedic. But, if you’re in Dawson City, you only get a first-aider…this two-tiered level of humanity between Whitehorse and the communities has to end.”

 Time is tight.

 Given the demand for paramedics, additional funding sources must be found by May 15th.

If that doesn’t happen, attendants will start arranging for out-of-territory training, said Wortley.