Health

House of Assembly passes bill to make private ambulances essential services

The House of Assembly has passed legislation to classify private ambulances as essential services.

The final vote to approve the Essential Ambulance Services Act came after 9 p.m. Monday with support from all parties. The NDP initially would not allow the bill to move straight to debate this morning, but the caucus eventually gave consent to proceed after the government allowed more time to review the bill and hold a Question Period.

The bill must still must receive Royal Assent, which is expected Tuesday. Once it becomes law, more than 100 striking employees with Fewer’s ambulance will have to return to work and negotiate an essential services agreement with the employer. Once that happens, the strike can resume and the contract dispute can go to binding arbitration.

Employer rejects partial return to work as House debates essential worker legislation for private ambulances

It was a day of twists and turns Monday as the House of Assembly reconvened for an emergency debate on the three-day private ambulance strike. First, the NDP delayed the debate. Then, the striking ambulance workers offered a partial return to work, but their employer refused. NTV’s Ben Cleary reports.

Striking ambulance workers shift picket line to steps of Confederation Building

Striking ambulance workers moved their picket line to Confederation Building ahead of today’s emergency debate in the House of Assembly. NTV’s Marykate O’Neill was there.

Another ambulance company offers to take over services affected by strike

There was yet another wrinkle in the story of the private ambulance strike Monday. Steve Carey, the owner of another ambulance company, has offered to take over services in those areas affected by the strike. NTV’s Don Bradshaw reports.

House of Assembly to hold emergency debate Monday on private ambulance strike

Premier Andrew Furey has asked for the House of Assembly to reconvene Monday to hold an emergency debate on the private ambulance strike affecting rural Newfoundland communities.

The House will debate the Essential Ambulance Services Act. If passed, the act will make private ambulance services essential. Striking members of Teamsters Local 855 would have to return to work until an essential services agreement is in place, at which point the labour action could resume.

More than 100 private ambulance workers in rural Newfoundland communities escalated their strike by walking off the job Friday. Teamsters Local 855 leader Hubert Dawe says it came after a hostile act by an employer against a union member. The companies owned by Bob Fewer cover areas from Fogo Island on the northeast coast to Trepassey on the southern shore of the Avalon to Stephenville on the west coast.

The Speaker’s Office says the House will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.

The legislation has not been made public yet, but the provincial government provided background information in a news release:

The Essential Ambulance Services Act

The Essential Ambulance Services Act will allow the employer and employees to determine the terms of the essential ambulance services agreement, and will allow them to engage with the Labour Relations Board when necessary ⁠— including authorizing the Board to refer a matter to binding arbitration to protect the employees’ meaningful right to a strike and the employers’ meaningful right to a lockout. When passed, the Act will require the union members to return to work until an essential services agreement is established, at which point labour action may resume. 

To date, only ambulance services provided publicly, through the Regional Health Authorities, fall under such legislation. Paramedics employed by private ambulance service operators fall under the Labour Relations Act and have thus far not been deemed essential. 

Winter storm triggers closures for some Eastern Health services

Eastern Health advises the public of the following service changes for today, Saturday, January 21, 2023, due to adverse weather this weekend:

• The community walk-in clinic, located at 50 Mundy Pond Rd, St. John’s, will be closed.

• The collaborative team clinic centre, located at 7 Pippy Place, St. John’s, will be closed.

• The COVID-19 vaccination clinic for children aged six months to 11 years old at Mount Pearl Square will be closed. Clients will be contacted to reschedule their appointments. In addition, clients may rebook online at www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/vaccine/gettheshot/.

• In addition, the planned closure of both the external and internal entrances to the emergency department at the Health Sciences Centre on Sunday, January 22, 2023 has been postponed. This closure will now be in effect as of Sunday, January 28, 2023.

Emergency services continue to be available at all sites during adverse weather. General contact information is available at: www.easternhealth.ca/contactus/.

Eastern Health continues to monitor the progress of severe winter conditions closely. For updates pertaining to Eastern Health’s facilities or its operations, please visit the Weather Watch section at Eastern Health’s website at https://news.easternhealth.ca/weather-watch/, or visit Eastern Health’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

More than 100 rural ambulance workers walk off the job

More than 100 workers with seven private ambulance services in rural Newfoundland walked off the job at noon Friday.

Teamsters Local 855 leader Hubert Dawe says it came after a hostile act by an employer against a union member. The companies cover areas from Fogo Island on the northeast coast to Trepassey on the southern shore of the Avalon to Stephenville on the west coast.

NTV’s Ben Cleary reports.

Local doctor says health care privatization unlikely in Newfoundland and Labrador

While the NDP and Nape are sounding the alarm about the Ontario government’s decision to fund private, for-profit clinics and surgeries, a local doctor says it won’t likely happen here.

But he understands Ontario’s rationale. NTV’s David Salter has more in this report.

811 HealthLine restored, province says

The province’s 811 HealthLine number has been restored, the Department of Health says.

For individuals in need of mental health services normally accessed through 811 HealthLine, the following resources are also available:

·         911: For emergencies, including community-based crisis intervention services provided by trained mental health clinicians on Mobile Crisis Response Teams;

·         Talk Suicide Canada: Connect to a crisis responder to get help for yourself, or if you’re worried about someone else.  Call 1-833-456-4566 toll-free 24/7 every day of the year or text 45645;

·         Lifewise Warm Line: Provincial non-emergency, non-crisis telephone support and referral service provided by trained peer support workers. Available seven days a week, 9:00 a.m. to midnight. Call 1-855-753-2560;

·         Kids Help Phone: Available to people of all ages 24/7, Call 1-800-668-6868 or text ‘CONNECT’ to 686868;

Visit www.kidshelphone.ca and click “Tap to Chat” from 7:00 p.m. to midnight daily, or send a message to Kids Help Phone via Facebook Messenger app.

NAPE calls on Furey government to oppose privatization of health care

The province’s largest public sector union has followed the NDP’s lead in calling on the Furey government to oppose privatization of the province’s health care system.

NTV’s David Salter has more in this report.

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