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Professional college needed for Ottawa paramedics, says association head

Paramedics across Ontario are calling for a professional college to increase accountability and transparency in the field.

The president of the Professional Paramedic Association of Ottawa says paramedics should be governed by their own college.

Metro file photo

The president of the Professional Paramedic Association of Ottawa says paramedics should be governed by their own college.

The head of the Professional Paramedic Association of Ottawa is joining the call for paramedics in Ontario to be regulated by a college – much like ones that govern doctors and physiotherapists.

Darryl Wilton, who has been a paramedic since 1996, said a professional college would not only make the profession more transparent when members are disciplined, but it would also improve patient care.

Paramedics, for example, are required to call hospital physicians in the middle of a call for approval on how much naloxone to administer to a patient who has overdosed on heroin or pain medication. Sometimes doctors in the ER are too busy to take their call and paramedics’ hands are tied, said Wilton.

“It’s a very cumbersome system that we currently work under,” he said.

Paramedics are already regulated to perform eight of the 13 acts under the Regulated Health Professions Act. For Wilton, the push for reform is mainly about adapting to changes in the community and to provide faster care.

“It’s very frustrating when paramedics have the formal education and they’re carrying the medications and they know what they can do to save lives, improve communities, and it’s being stifled by layers of government two or three levels higher. It’s a very inefficient system in Ontario,” he said.

Paramedics in other jurisdictions are also calling for their profession to be regulated by a college. 

A college would also increase accountability in the field by making discipline hearings open to the public, like what is done with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

In Toronto, the paramedic service received more than 360 complaints about patients care between 2009 to 2014 and in 125 of those cases, investigators found a paramedics was at fault.

Toronto Paramedic Service spokeswoman Kim McKinnon told Torstar News Service that disciplinary action was taken in all of those cases, but it is kept secret.

That information, McKinnon said, is “considered a confidential employment matter” and “private."

In an emailed statement to Torstar News Service, Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said paramedics are “an important, trusted part of our frontline health care in Ontario.

“It is important though that our government maintains the proper reporting mechanisms to ensure that highest level of care,” he said.

“If updates to our complaints process are necessary we will make the appropriate changes.”

– With files from Torstar News Service

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