Wasylycia-Leis, Councillors Respond to City’s Ambulance Shortage

A firefighter and paramedic wheel an injured cyclist on stretcher to an ambulance on St. Mary Avenue September 6, 2010. (WPGCAMERAMAN / CHRISD.CA)

The Paramedics of Winnipeg, MGEU Local 911 has embarked on a campaign that calls for additional ambulances to be added to Winnipeg streets.

Over the last several weeks, the union has been making it an election issue and encouraged mayoral candidates and city councillor candidates to fill out an online questionnaire about the shortage.

While Mayor Sam Katz, Rav Gill and Brad Gross did not respond, lead mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis did.

“Regardless of how the questions were answered, when people take the time in a busy campaign to join the discussion in this way it shows paramedics that candidates are tuned in and care about these issues,” said Local 911 president Chris Broughton. “I think the responses we have received clearly show people understand the challenges in the current system and are willing to work toward finding solutions.”

Over 20 candidates responded to the questionnaire, including incumbent councillors Gord Steeves, Jeff Browaty, Mike Pagtakhan, Harvey Smith and Jenny Gerbasi.

The seven-question survey was developed based on the feedback Winnipeggers provided to the union. Results can be be viewed at AmbulanceShortage.ca.

“A number of people have called for a review of the EMS system and the way we deliver services in order to determine the best way forward, and I think that’s fair,” Broughton said. “But reviews take time, and we have issues that may put families at risk right now. We need to act.”

Earlier this week, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief Jim Brennan released a statement saying there was no shortage, and defended ambulance response times as being one of the best in the country.