Red Deer’s fire medics worry the staffing increase in the city’s proposed 2023-2024 budget won’t be enough to address their overwhelming workload.
“Any increase in staffing is good and it’s a positive direction. But are we just putting a band-aide on a situation that needs more? To maintain minimal staffing in the city of Red Deer, we’re having people come in on their days off,” said Red Deer fire medic Stephen Belich, president of International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1190 Red Deer.
“Our concerns are for public safety, and the safety and the workload of our members.”
An overview of the 2023-2024 capital and operating budgets presented to Red Deer city council includes 4.79 and 4.38 per cent tax increases to meet city demands, including hiring more fire medics.
Belich said Red Deer Emergency Services have not had proper staff increases since 2015, and the proposed increase is almost half of what was expected which will not prevent more fire hall closures or stop putting fire medics at unacceptable risks because of the staffing level.
He said the opportunity to bolster staffing must be dealt with now while city council budgets for the next two years.
“I don’t know if we can keep maintaining and sustain what we’re doing for another two years without the help of increased staffing.”
He said everyone is aware of the soaring demands on EMS workers, which impacts the public, including lengthy waits with patients at hospital.
He said worker retention has gotten worse. Five years ago, only about one person per year would leave, and now about seven are quitting. The number of people on disability claims has increased from 16 to almost 28 per year.
Belich said IAFF members are reaching out to city councillors to encourage them to take a closer look at the proposed staffing increase. Fire medics also encourage the public to send councillors and fire chief Ken McMullen a letter from the IAFF about the chronic understaffing. They could also attend the Nov. 28 city council budget meeting.
“We’re hoping the public is concerned. It’s no secret the fire hall closures we’ve had, the wait times.”
The IAFF letter is available at Red Deer IAFF L1190 on Twitter.
Red Deer City council will discuss the budget from Nov. 28 to 30. Citizens can view the proposed budget on the city’s website and comment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.