The provincial health minister says another private ambulance operator will step up and expand its service in light of his department’s decision to terminate an agreement with Moore’s Ambulance Service.
The province gave Moore’s, based in Clarke’s Beach, 30 days notice. As of April 6, government will not fund the company to serve Conception Bay North.
Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood heard from a number of residents this past weekend concerned about the latest development with Moore’s and wrote a letter to the health minister on behalf of council Tuesday. In it, he noted the town had met with the company’s owner to share its concerns about response times and ambulance availability.
“We do need ambulances from time to time, and there is a large senior population here, and people are wondering what’s happening to their ambulance service,” Wood told The Compass, adding he was surprised to hear about the termination of funding for Moore’s.
Minister of Health and Community Services John Haggie told reporters Monday there were a couple of reasons why government terminated its agreement with the company. He said Moore’s Ambulance continually refused to sign a 2015-2016 agreement with the province as other ambulance operators had.
“It’s solely an issue with this one operator,” Haggie said.
He said neighbouring private operators had also complained about the company, indicating they were “picking up the slack” due to Moore’s Ambulance being unavailable at times.
The minister also cited complaints from Moore’s employees about work conditions and wages owed.
“This is not about (the employees) in the sense of quality of service or anything like that,” Haggie cautioned. “They work very hard. Indeed, the challenge seems to be unsafe and unwise scheduling practices. We’ve had complaints of people working for 72 hours and then being mandated back to work. And they have not been able to access the (retroactive) pay that the other paramedics in the province have. We have about $150,000 of money, by our calculation, which is owed to those employees.
“Now, I am not their employer. That is my challenge. They are employed by Moore’s. But I feel an ethical and moral obligation, if you like, to see these individuals compensated appropriately for the hard work they put in, and that isn’t happening, either.”
The minister added he feels there have been some delay tactics over the last three years.
“For example, we’d get a letter of intent signed, and then the detailed negotiations to support that letter would never materialize, and really we have felt it wiser to call it a day on April 6.”
For people living in the affected area, people can still call 911 and expect to have an ambulance respond to the call, Haggie said.
“The funding for the service is there, it’s not going away — we need to have that service,” he said, adding both of the other private operators in the area — Broughton’s Ambulance Service in Brigus and Young’s Ambulance Service in Spaniard’s Bay — have expressed an interest in taking on the extra duties with support from government.
The mayor of Bay Roberts believes whatever agreement is reached between the province and a new ambulance service provider should include a stipulation permanently placing an ambulance base or emergency ambulance in the community. That issue has come up in the past at council meetings.
“We have numerous accidents, sadly, along Route 70 that goes through our town, and these ambulances all have to come into the town,” Wood said. “But if they’re situated in town, obviously the availability of the ambulances would be much, much better.”
Wood added he supports the workers impacted by this decision and is hopeful they will find employment with the company that secures government support to provide ambulance service for the region.
Moore’s Ambulance Service president Carl Moore could not be reached for comment by press time.