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Teslin ambulance crew expands

Teslin’s ambulance crisis is in remission.Health and Social Services has recruited six new volunteer ambulance attendants in the village,…

Teslin’s ambulance crisis is in remission.

Health and Social Services has recruited six new volunteer ambulance attendants in the village, after one of its two volunteers resigned last month.

“At least six individuals are willing to step forward in the community of Teslin and volunteer as ambulance attendants,” said Health and Social Services minister Brad Cathers in a Wednesday release.

The Yukon government is now making arrangements to provide the new volunteers with the necessary training.

“These volunteers are on the front lines in our rural communities and they want and need the skills to be able to respond,” said Cathers.

Ambulance volunteers have been scarce in Teslin.

Doug Martens, Teslin’s only ambulance attendant and acting supervisor, has been a volunteer for four years, and has been on call the whole time.

Richard Oziewicz, the volunteer who resigned last month, had been a volunteer for the past 11 years and spent the majority of these years on call.

“Those guys in Teslin are on call 24/7, 365 days a year and the radios we all have to carry are 10-pound bricks,” said Carmacks ambulance supervisor Lorraine Kontogonis, speaking before the resignation occurred.

“Mine goes everywhere with me, I don’t leave it anywhere. And it’s tough — it’s really tough,” she said.

“It’s a huge responsibility.” (GK)

Cathers lauds local child-care funding, but makes no promises of higher wages

In the throes of a growing staffing crisis, the Yukon Child Care Association has asked the Yukon government for increased wage funding.

But the Yukon government is not making any concrete promises.

“We are committed to working with child-care stakeholders on how to best direct money into system,” said Health and Social Services minister Brad Cathers at a news conference Tuesday.

“There are some regulatory requirements that (the stakeholders) claim are causing some difficulty and we plan to review the regulations this fall, working with child-care operators and parents to discuss the regulations and review them in partnership.”

Child care in the territory receives $5.3 million in funding annually.

“We have the second best child-care supports in the country, second only to province of Quebec,” said Cathers.

But low wages are compromising the territory’s child-care system.

Current child-care employee wages are not high enough to lure new workers into the profession or entice current ones to stay, especially with the increase in service industry wages, said a number of workers and parents at a press conference last week.

But there is funding money available.

Besides its annual child-care budget, the Yukon government is sitting on $1.3 million in one-time federal funding.

Right now, it’s held in trust, said Cathers.

“And we will be directing it to child care after developing a plan in co-operation with child-care stakeholders.”

Cathers suggested the federal money might be distributed over a number of years to further boost the territory’s struggling child-care system.

There are an average of 972 Yukon children enrolled in licensed childcare spaces currently, said Cathers.

So, the $5.3 million provided annually equates to $5,462 per child enrolled.

But child-care workers and parents say there are long wait lists to get children into already full facilities.

The Yukon government also subsidizes low-income parents, to help them cover the cost of childcare while they work. “This support was $2.9 million this year,” said Cathers.

“In addition, we support all children in care

through a direct operating grant, which provided $2.4 million in support this year.”

The operating grant cushions centre and day-home operating and maintenance costs to help lower expenses.

“We also provide additional support for children with special needs who are in care,” said Cathers.

In 2003, in partnership with the childcare working group, the Yukon government developed a four-year plan for early childhood education and care in the territory.

“And we will honour our four-year commitment and carry on beyond the four-year plan to continue working with the childcare community to address their needs and the pressures that they face to ensure that Yukon childcare remains one of the strongest systems in country,” said Cathers.