Island-trained paramedics mull move to western Canada

Ryan Cooke
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Newly graduated paramedics who can't get full-time work in P.E.I. are being lured to Alberta with promises of better pay days.

When Morissa Ings graduates from the Holland College primary care paramedicine program this summer, she’ll be looking at two guarantees.

One, there won’t be any full-time work available for her in her home province of P.E.I. Two, the prospect of heading to Alberta will be ringing in her head.

“There’s a huge temptation. Out there, as a primary care paramedic, we can make $350-plus a day.”

With a three week-on, two week-off schedule, that translates to about $150,000 each year — over three times what she could make at home.

It’s a trend that P.E.I. Paramedics Union leader Jason Woodbury has noticed growing in his field and he fears the effect it will have on Islanders.

“There’s a lot of leave of absence requests coming through to the employers with regards to leaving to pursue a career in the western part of the country,” he said.

While he says the outmigration of paramedics isn’t at a critical point yet, it’s hurtling towards it. The demographic of the west-bound medics is the most troubling part, he said.

“It seems to be the younger generation. They finish their schooling at Holland College and the opportunities are not all that bright for full-time employment on P.E.I.”

Woodbury is calling for a structured plan to keep young paramedics from leaving, he said.

“Government and management and union need to sit down and talk before it gets critical,” he said.

Nova Scotia paramedic union leader Terry Chapman says morale is at an all-time low in his province due to the outmigration. As many as 90 advanced care paramedics have left the region to find work in Western Canada, he estimates.

Ings sees the pros along with the cons.

“While it’s a little scary of a thought, at the same time, it’s kind of a positive thing for us new beginners. Employment-wise, it opens up a lot of doors for us.”

But she notes there are some duties primary care paramedics cannot administer. That, coupled with a lack of advanced care paramedics due to outmigration, people like Ings could find themselves in helpless situations.

“My scary thought is that if I need that (additional help), is it going to be available to me when that patient needs it?”

In P.E.I., the lack of trained responders extends beyond paramedicine.

Woodbury, who is the fire chief in Miscouche, said he’s seen several leave of absence requests come across his desk from young firefighters heading west.

“It’s the whole EMS system,” he said. “We’re starting to see this trickle effect within the fire service as well, with the retention and demand for volunteer firefighters within the province.”

Woodbury believes things are only going to get worse for everybody, not just emergency services.

“It makes it very difficult. These rural communities are going to be dormant if employment doesn’t change.”

Organizations: Holland College, P.E.I. Paramedics Union, EMS

Geographic location: Western Canada, P.E.I., Alberta Nova Scotia Miscouche

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Recent comments

    February 22, 2013 - 16:26

    Woodbury is calling for a structured plan to keep young paramedics from leaving, he said. “Government and management and union need to sit down and talk before it gets critical,” he said.- There is such a thin as supply and demand. If these community colleges keep producing para-medics, there are only so many jobs on the Island. The rest will have to go elsewhere. It is no different than the police academy at Slemon Park. Further, graduating from any discipline doesn't guarntee anyone a job. Go where the work is, not where it's not.

  • the dominant question.
    February 22, 2013 - 10:33

    The problem with PEI is not who is leaving, it's who is staying. Those with education, independence, motivation, and insight are leaving . . . many of those with the opposite traits are staying. We're coming close to becoming the people Harper and Duffy characterized us to be: unschooled, dependent, unmotivated and close minded. Do you really want to live here anymore? For too many, this is becoming the dominant question.

  • reality check
    February 22, 2013 - 09:28

    PEI has too many ambulance drivers anyway, and they're overpaid for what they do. All ambulances are is a glorified taxi service for driving the little old ladies and gentlemen in from the country to their specialist appointments in Charlottetown or Summerside. But the flashing lights and fancy uniforms certainly make them feel important. Especially when they can get free coffee at every donut shop on the island.

    • Your Address
      February 22, 2013 - 13:28

      You forgot to add your address to your comment so the EMTs can ignore your call next time you find yourself in an emergency and need help, since they're only a glorified taxi service. Try Yellow instead. 566-6666 Give your head a shake!

  • voter
    February 22, 2013 - 09:09

    look around -- they all come back -- job or no job -what do you think EI in PEI stands for ???

    • James
      May 03, 2013 - 10:33

      Edward Island?? Just taking a guess

  • Robert Roberts
    February 22, 2013 - 08:33

    Move out west, it will be the best thing you can do for your future. There is no future here. The comments here from Islanders that have never been anywhere else (Islander wages do not allow you to travel) about the higher cost of living are a bunch of crap. Take housing out of the equation and the cost of living is lower in the west e.g.. 4L milk $4.50 out west $6.50 PEI.

  • bye the way
    February 22, 2013 - 00:37

    Dear Gary...her quote is '$350-"PLUS" a day'.....and where in the article did she say that she Wasn't going to work at an Alberta Oil (Suncor) Camp? Key word here Gary is Plus. Listen to the "Island Medic" when he says making $500 per day is easily done.... "a no-brainer" an ACP makes 20% more. So let us use your 219 days x $500 = $110,000. Now add all the extras that the Island Medic(who has been there ,done that) says is included... meals ,transportation,accommodations,plus a daily living expense all footed by the company .plus flight credits.Surely that is worth $150 per day x your 219 days=$32,850. and that is for a PCP .Now if they paid you ,a laborer $325 per day they would certainly pay a highly trained paramedic $500....As the article states Gary; these Medics are going west and they certainly aren't doing your math. Gee Gary seems like you should talk to some Charlottetown policeman too,with their made- in- P.E.I. overtime ,they are near, if not HIGHER those dreaded R.C.M.P. WAGES.

  • not happy
    February 21, 2013 - 23:53

    What on earth is wrong with you people, somone has made a decision to better themselves,and you are tearing them apart (SHAME) are you all jealous that you were unable to make that decision and are left on PEI at a low paying job and struggling for the rest of your lives. GROW UP

  • johnny
    February 21, 2013 - 23:38

    Didn't Alberta just predict that they are going to have a $4 billion deficit this year? That's twice PEI's entire debt that took us 140 years to build up. And that's their deficit in just ONE YEAR. I think Alberta is going to be doing a whole pile of cutting in the very near future. And they aren't afraid to do that, unlike here in the maritimes.

  • Robot Gizz
    February 21, 2013 - 21:56

    Gizz and Harper won't be happy till every young,able bodied,person in Canada is out west pumping oil out of the ground(and than out of the country)so all their big business buddys are maxing profit while it all lasts.My worry is when it all comes to a crashing end,then what.Their will be alot of unemployed people used to making big money and NO jobs. I would guess by then the world order will have another big project somewhere in the world.And Harper will have the EI set up so that if you're not willing to travel to this project to work than YOU DON'T QUALIFY for EI !!!!!!

  • Nancy
    February 21, 2013 - 21:00

    You all need to realize that not all these recent grads are just going where all the money is, they are going where the WORK is. That's it. There is no WORK on this island. They have to go elsewhere because if they just sit and wait around here they lose their skills and then who is that helping?? If PEI must rely on say, Nova Scotia, to educate our doctors and pharmacists then why aren't Nova Scotians complaining about students who are trained in that province, only to leave once they graduate? Islanders need to be the same way. Paramedics get training here, but they do not have to stay, especially when there is no employment.

  • gonewest
    February 21, 2013 - 19:44

    I can not believe the ignorant, uneducated comments. It makes me embarrassed to be from PEI. My husband and myself had to move out West for work and no, we didn't want to but needed to pay off student loans. There are not any jobs for us on the Island and enjoy the quality of life our salaries allow in Alberta. The RCMP are a fantastic group who face putting their life in danger every day and suffer daily verbal abuse. Perhaps before people make comments that are stupid, they should put away their drug paraphernalia and think about what the job of a RCMP member involves. As for the young paramedic, come to Alberta, we have a fantastic EMS service and you will make great money.

  • West is the Best
    February 21, 2013 - 19:39

    Morissa don't listen to Don, make the move west. 5 years from now when you have paid off your debt, saved a mortgage downpayment, and can afford to move back to pei if you want, this island will still be here. I went to Calgary for work in 2005 and all i heard before i left was how high the cost of living is in alberta. Its actually a lot cheaper for many things and the salaries and benefits sure make up for anything that is higher. There are a lot of good people on pei but there are just as many that need to pull their heads out of the sand, stop complaining, and buy a plane ticket and some work boots and go to sask, alberta, or nfld to make a change in their lives.

  • emt fromthewest
    February 21, 2013 - 18:26

    don't do it. the alberta health system treats its employees like crap. sure you will make lots of money but you will wash your own bus, sleep in it and get chiseled for days off, overtime and any other way they can squeeze you, then when the cutbacks come due to budget they will fire you instead of laying you off so you can't get ei. and god help you if a patient dies on your shift because you will never work again, they will pull your license so fast. do some research, alberta is laying people off now because they can't afford the big wages from the last two contracts.

      February 22, 2013 - 16:19

      Your Raisson d'etre seems to be all about qualifying for EI. You have got to let that go and think about choosing a career for yourself that will allow you to live a decent lifestyle. If it means moving away, so be it.You can always return for holidays, just like thousands of us before you.

  • Just Go
    February 21, 2013 - 18:07

    I think they should all go west....get off this hateful island!

    • Great Comment
      February 22, 2013 - 13:19

      This is the best comment here. Just read some of the others below, nothing but hate and ignorance. Hateful is the best word to describe the Island and the people on it right now. As a recent graduate of UPEI, I did my best to stick around for 6 months after graduation in hoping i wouldn't have to leave my home, unfortunately unless I wanna work for Murphy Group for $12 an hour, good luck. It would take quite a while to pay off my undergrad, I spent the last 4 years getting in a position like that. I'm now in Calgary and working for a successful corporation making upwards of 55K per year. No one can tell me I made the wrong decision based on that. PEI....50 years behind, and slowing down!

    • Sales Tax
      February 22, 2013 - 13:23

      Yup, Alberta will post a deficit. However, being the only province without a sales tax, they are more likely to introduce one now to deal with the deficit. A 5% sales tax would cut the deficit in one year to almost nilche. Economics eh!

  • caveat
    February 21, 2013 - 17:47

    When looking at higher pay out west be sure to get current info on the cost of living too.

  • Gerry
    February 21, 2013 - 17:34

    It's truly sad when the "Don's" and "Garys" of the Island begrudge someone taking the initiative to educate him/herself so he/she can aspire to a better lifestyle versus adopting the "settling for less" mindset. Most likely they are also jealous of those (CFAs) who also choose to move to PEI; and are successful at the same time. Audacious or what? Time to broaden your horizon boys by letting go of that dismal outlook which not everyone possesses, thank God.

  • clam
    February 21, 2013 - 17:19

    Don should think over what he said.I for one and many others go where the work is.U don't have a choice most of the time.U must have a full time job or came into money ,but if u can stay on pei that is great,but people have to ,make a living ,the bills don't stop coming in

  • bye the way
    February 21, 2013 - 17:16

    @Townie and two have to learn the Alberta Suncor Camp math @ $40 per hour..... 21 days x 12 hrs. It's the "plus" part of the $350/day you don't understand. 6 days out of those 21 are rest days,which most people at a camp work @triple time...that's 6 x $1000. The other 15 days of the 21 have 4 hrs per day overtime @ the rate of 1.5. That's 60 hrs @ $60. per hr .So let's add this up...15 days@$350 =$5250.15 days x 4 hrs per day overtime = 60 hrs x $60hr =$3600 .Add 6 days of rest @ $1000 = $6000. You will have the grand total of $14,750. per 5 week rotation, and there is 10 of those in a year =$147,500. If Morissa Ings wants to work and work long hours she will make that kind of money ....the Taxman will love her. Safe Journey and Good Luck Morissa.

    • GARY
      February 21, 2013 - 19:09

      Thanks for your amazing insight BYE THE WAY, you seem to be an expert on the topic. Where in the article did it say she was going to anywhere which uses Alberta Suncor Camp Math? I've worked out west in the past few winters. When I was offered $325 a day, that was what I got, and that included overtime (after 8 hours it was time and a half). We worked 24 days straight and none of those were rest days, and many who I seen in the oil patch were in the same boat. I'd like to see a paramedic that starts at $40 an hour regular rate, that's almost what a driller makes. That would work out to $560 per 12 hour day with time and a half for OT. The article said $350. I like to use normal math it makes things a lot easier. Using your math, why would there be anyone left on P.E.I. or the east coast for that matter? Dream land

  • Island Medic
    February 21, 2013 - 14:54

    Actually.. $150,000 is quite a stretch for a PCP in Alberta! But an ACP could make that quite easily! and it's not just Alberta.. Sask and BC, even NWT are needing medics. People shouldn't be ragging on island Paramedics for leaving when at least 30% of the people I've met out here (trades, cooks, construction, rig and seismic workers etc) are from the maritimes! All of those people left behind lesser wages "and had their education funded by taxpayers".. to make big bucks in Alberta. I came out for the sole reason to get loans paid off.. This work isn't enjoyable or rewarding.... It's BORING! No paramedic who went into this profession for the adrenalin rush and to help people wants to go to Alberta to sit on their butt in a truck, or a clinic for 12 hours and twiddle their thumbs, but when the option of going out west for a couple months to make $350-500 per day it's no-brainer. And it's definitely not a job that a rookie paramedic wants.. we want to get some experience, but when you have loans up to your eyeballs, and no provincial EMS systems are currently hiring.. it makes sense! ALSO meals, transportation and accommodations are all provided, you get a daily living expence, and the company will set you up in a house, camp or even a hotel and.. foot the bill! Some companies will even offer credit towards flights to and from! It's hard to say no to that! Paramedics in the Maritimes are constantly having things added to their scope of practice, 8/10 times they work overtime (casual medics don't even get paid overtime!), and are bullied into working extra shifts and aren't being properly compensated!! You can't tell me that if all of a sudden if Alberta was looking for Pharmicists, or bus drivers, or WHOEVER.. and were willing to pay them salaries that made them do a double take at their pay stub, that they wouldn't flock out this way in a heartbeat! It's a sucky situation but it's not all just about greed.. the price of living and education costs are rising steadily and the salaries just can't keep up! A lot of medics are out here just to make ends meet! Leave Morissa alone.. .. you don't know half the story.

  • Lbh
    February 21, 2013 - 14:43

    If she used ei to go to holland college good on her better then ones who use ei to sit home n not better themselves. And why is it so many islanders expect people to work on pei when there is no future there. Why hold it against a person who wants more for themselves. I'm pretty sure she has a few years of work in Alberta before the oil runs dry.

  • itsme
    February 21, 2013 - 14:04

    The explanation of why she would stay here for her training is simple: Holland College runs two Paramedicine programs, Primary Care Paramedicne, 10 long months, which is the entry level program. They also have an Advanced Care Paramedicine program 14 months long, which as the name states is the advanced level program. These programs are both certified by the Canadian Medical Association, which means that the program is administered to a certain level of standards and is accepted across Canada. Also the fact that Holland College has a reputation for turning out good paramedics at both levels, and the courses are sought out by people from all over Canada, hoping to become paramedics. Why would you go anywhere else?

  • Sylvia
    February 21, 2013 - 14:04

    This is one of my major concerns, all the young people who are leaving P.E.I. to go west. Anyone who isn't concerned really needs to think about this. It's a very serious situation. I've been concerned about this for a long time. I would be very glad to welcome back to P.E.I. any of these young people who are going out west as they are the future of P.E.I. I can only hope that eventually they'll decide to come back.

    • Sarah
      February 21, 2013 - 15:28

      Syliva, until you are willing to provide employment for these new graduates, I wouldn't be so down on them leaving province. There currently is NO work available on PEI; so they either stay, wait for a job and in turn lose their skills or they leave province to find work.

    • Sylvia
      February 22, 2013 - 09:00

      Sarah, I'm not down on them for leaving. I had to do it when I was young, went to Toronto but eventually returned. I hope the economy here will eventually improve so that they will also return. I can understand perfectly why they feel they must leave. I wish the government would do something to make it possible for young people to stay here. I am very concerned, very. You should be too. I'm an older retired senior so there is nothing I can do to provide employment for anyone. This government doesn't appear to be concerned, and that's what worries me.

  • Ross
    February 21, 2013 - 13:43


  • Shane
    February 21, 2013 - 13:43

    @Don Very ignorant comment Don. I work in the west and commute back and forth, I pay taxes here and would rather those dollars be spent to train someone than spent on someone who would rather live off the system. Chances are my tax dollars are supporting you.

    • andy
      February 21, 2013 - 17:42

      The smugness of western Canada's financial situation is because they stand on a pool of oil. But that's a finite resource and won't last forever. Guess where the hottest economy was 100 years ago in Canada? It was an energy mega project too..... can't guess? Sydney, Cape Breton Island. Coal mines, 2 steel mills, etc. People moved there from overseas and around the world. They had the largest private sector workforce in the British Empire for a few years. Now all gone. Alberta will be in the same boat someday - actually they're landlocked, so they'll be back in a dust bowel someday. Might not be in my lifetime but just thinking about the world moving off oil (which is inevitable) puts a smile on my face.

  • don
    February 21, 2013 - 13:32

    gary she is also not counting the cost of food,rent,every thing is higher. but when the big boom is gone from out west where will she go then? back to PEI. and i would tell her sorry we do not need turn coats.

    • huh
      February 21, 2013 - 19:32

      I suppose then if we were to apply your ummm "logic" then anyone who works here but was trained elsewhere probably should go home. That would wipe out a good chunk of our health care professionals now wouldn't it.

  • Proud sister of a Paramedic
    February 21, 2013 - 13:18

    Just wants to point out that a paramedic is the one that keeps you alive until you reach the hospital !!! Thank you to all the paramedics out there :) Morissa don't pay attention to negative people.

  • Ross
    February 21, 2013 - 13:01

    Good for Morissa, if she wants to work in Alberta and can make good money at it, why not? PEI relies on other provinces to educate pharmacists and other professions so you can't be surprised when island-educated professionals choose to move away. This isn't a new scenario, it's really too bad but nobody is in the wrong.

  • Lori
    February 21, 2013 - 13:01

    In Canada pit is the right of the citizens to move to another province if they wish. So at the end of the day, it is up to the individual to decide if they want to remain here and work (if they can find employment) or move elsewhere. There are obviously pros and cons to both, based on personal decisions. However, I for one am happy the RCMP get the Canada wide salary as at least they make a good living here. Why not start 'attacking the teacher's and principal's salaries too? As I see it, at least these folks are not in the poor house like many others. As for the Island and our firefighter's I find it pretty sad that the tax break they get is so small it is pitiful, for the great service they provide to us.

  • gary
    February 21, 2013 - 12:12

    PEI can't compete for wages with a province like Alberta.... or any other province for that matter. We need to pay what we can afford and if qualified people want to work here for that wage, so be it. Otherwise, go to Alberta. And on the cost of emergency services, another burr in my bonnet is the salaries paid to RCMP who work here. They get a nationally-mandated salary. PEI cannot afford this. We should disband the RCMP contract and have our own single provincial police force (merge Ch'town, K'ton & S'side police into it). We would have dozens more officers by paying a made-in-PEI police salary (which would still be darned good) and not having to pay the national RCMP salary. Get rid of the mounties!

    • Will Wheaton
      February 21, 2013 - 13:13

      Are you aware of how much city police make? I don't believe you are. Someone that works for the RCMP and someone that works for city police after a 5 year period is a quite similar pay. Although the city police officer had to work more overtime hours to get there it still ends up quite similar. Obviously that means there needs to be overtime hours but ask any Charlottetown officer and he will tell you there are lots.

    • bs they can.t
      February 21, 2013 - 14:59

      tim hortons out west charges less than tim hortons here and they start around 18 bucks an hour and the only difference between alberta and pei is rent all the rest of the goods and services are cheeper than pei even land tax so its the buisnesses in pei that are reeping the benniefits not to mention the government raking us over the coals so dont give me that bs that alberta is soooo much more expensive cause its not by far

  • don
    February 21, 2013 - 11:27

    Morissa Ings why did you stay here and get trained? maybe help from the tax payers? why not go west and get your training? so to me if the tax payers helped pay for your training and you leave please never come back.

    • Erin Doyle
      February 21, 2013 - 17:18

      Did you stop to think before you posted your comment that she might be from PEI? And might be living with her parents rent-free during school? Schooling isn't cheap, and often programs such as paramedicine are intense and leave students with little free time so working during school is not an option. Would you suggest that even though she is from PEI she should move away to go to school? How is she any less entitled to go to the school in her home province than anyone else, regardless of where she does or does not end up afterwards?? It is not the fault of the younger generation of PEI that there are no jobs and no security there. I lived in PEI for 28 years and loved my home, but neither my husband nor I could get work. We are now out west making 6 times what we could have made at home and our rent is cheaper. Why would anyone stay given those options? And do you know for a fact that she is part of the Skills Canada program? I don't see this anywhere in the article. And to be eligible for Skills PEI you must be laid off and eligible for EI, so even if she is part of that program at least she is doing it as a means to an end and going to school while on EI unlike most island EI collectors that do it as a way of life. Maybe think twice before you post such narrow minded condescending remarks next time.

  • Tom Paine
    February 21, 2013 - 11:12

    with a shortage here on the Island, why is there no work?

  • GARY
    February 21, 2013 - 11:08

    $350 a day when you only work 60% of the year... Let's do some math here. 60% of the year is 219 days * $350 = $76,650 per year grossed. That's about half of $150k. she better do some math before buying a plane ticket right away... even at $400 a day that's only $10 000 more. And don't forget about the tax man...

    • Townie
      February 21, 2013 - 13:06

      Even at a 5 day work weeks and 52 weeks in the year - $350 * 5 * 52 = 91,000 . If they worked every day for a year it would only be 127,000. And I believe an FTE is 220 days not 219.