Stretched to the limit

B.C. paramedics are sounding the alarm over a staffing shortage they say is taking a toll on those filling the gaps.

Seventeen ambulances were out of service in the Lower Mainland on Friday because there weren't enough paramedics to staff them, CTV News reports.

"Paramedics and dispatchers are feeling the strain of it," Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC president Cameron Eby told CTV. "We think that’s contributing to fatigue, burnout and occupational stress injuries, like PTSD."

The union says the "staffing crisis" is playing out across the province. Full-time positions sit vacant in larger cities, and in smaller communities, recruiting on-call paramedics is a problem.

"The workload goes through the roof for everybody who's still at work. Ultimately, that will cause more people to have stress or physical injuries, and they'll need more time off and more ambulances will be out of service. It’s taking a severe toll," Eby said.

Urgent calls are still given priority, but wait times may be longer for non-critical incidents, he says.

Meanwhile, BC Emergency Health Services says it is working to fill vacant positions and adjust scheduling.

The union is currently in collective bargaining with BCEHS.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

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