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Paramedic service to add four full-timers to address staffing issues

The move is expected to reduce part-time and overtime hours
Paramedics Scott Benford and Elyse Cormier clean and prepare their ambulance between calls at the ambulance bay at Sault Area Hospital in this 2022 file photo.

The Sault Ste. Marie Paramedic Services is adding four full-time paramedics at an annual cost of over $475,000, but Chief Katie Kirkham says with a reduction in overtime and part-time hours the net increase will be closer to $33,000 per year.

In a report to the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB), Kirkham noted the paramedic service is staffed to meet its deployment plan’s minimum requirements.

”With the extra pressures of Covid, we've seen absenteeism increase, particularly as last-minute sick vacancies,” said Kirkham in her report. 

The service was regularly failing to meet minimum staffing levels before the Ministry of Health (MOH) funded the addition of eight full-time equivalencies (FTE) in November to staff a full two-person crew per shift. 

Now the ministry has directed paramedic services to make these extra costs a part of the global budget, with costs shared between the MOH and the municipality.

Reached by email, Kirkham told SooToday when the province provided the additional funding for eight FTEs, those shifts were made up of part-time staff.

With some juggling of schedules, Kirkham believes adding only four full-time staff at the cost of $478,296 will get the service to a staffing level that will serve the community, as well as offer a buffer to account for unforeseen absences.

Although on paper the cost is close to half a million dollars, Kirkham said adding the four full time staff is projected to result in a reduction of part-time and overtime hours, with the net increase estimated to be closer to $33,946 annually.

“It will also reduce the risk of down-staffing,” she said.

The board approved the hiring unanimously during its meeting last week.


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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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