The ambulance provider changes, they learn on Facebook that they are losing their jobs

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The ambulance provider changes, they learn on Facebook that they are losing their jobs

A Smith's Ambulance Services ambulance last fall in Whitbourne.

Paramedics in Newfoundland had a the displeasure of learning on Facebook on Friday that they had just lost a job.

In a statement late Thursday evening, the Eastern Newfoundland health authority, called Eastern Health, announced that it would no longer do business with Smith's Ambulance Services in the community of Whitbourne. .

The news took members of the community, but also workers, by surprise.

Janelle Evans, a paramedic, explained that she was at home on Thursday evening, preparing for her shift, when she checked her Facebook and learned that the contract between her employer of the past two years and Eastern Health had abruptly ended.

It would have been nice to learn that I was losing my job other than through Facebook, quipped Janelle Evans. We still want to be here in Whitbourne, providing care to the communities and people we know.

Paramedic Janelle Evans (2nd from left) has worked for Smith's for two years.

Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan isn't thrilled either.

We've been with Smith's Ambulance for a long time and have received good service, she said. Losing them is not good for anyone, for him [the owner], for us, for the employees.

Ken Baird, interim president and CEO of Eastern Health, says the health authority made the decision because Smith's would not meet the obligations included in its contract. He would not specify what exactly he blamed the company for, and said the authority had acted on the recommendation of the provincial Department of Health and Community Services.

In an email, a ministry spokesperson said they could not comment on the situation, for legal reasons.

To find out why paramedics found out about the news on social media, Ken Baird said it was not the authority's responsibility to notify them.

For more than a year, the community of Whitbourne mourns the continued closure of the William H. Newhook Health Center Emergency Department.

After occasional closures in early 2022, the ER has been closed since June 27. The approximately 20,000 citizens served by this hospital must go to Placentia or Carbonear, which are at least fifty kilometers away, or 90 kilometers further to Saint-Jean.

A lack of staff is the reason given by the Eastern Health Authority.

Citizens demonstrated last month to denounce this closure which has been going on for eight months.

About 200 exasperated citizens demonstrated on February 19, 2023 in front of the William H. Newhook Health Center, in Whitbourne.

Wade Smith, the owner of Smith's Ambulance Services, was at the protest. He said the community ER closure meant his paramedics had to drive farther and longer to drop their patients off at the hospital.

He explained that this increased the fatigue and frustration of paramedics. His request for more paramedics was denied by the health authority, he said.

Eastern Health has moved two of its ambulances to the William H Health Center .Newhook. Its president says it is a temporary solution, but it is unclear what the plans are for the future.

With information fromHeather Gillis, CBC

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