Ornge training cuts compromise safety

Ornge training cuts compromise safety

May 3, 2013 at 4:08 PM
The decision by Ornge management to cancel mandatory Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) puts the safety of Ornge members and their patients at risk, says CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

In a letter dated May 2, 2013, Lewenza expressed his concerns to Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews and Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi.  

"Health and safety is the priority concern of those that provide the service,” Lewenza states. "It may require the [Labour] Ministry to legislate such training.”

To ensure safety skills are maintained, flight paramedics must undertake ongoing training.  HUET provides invaluable instruction on how to evacuate or escape from a capsized helicopter. It has been a standard practice for paramedics for years and has been shown to significantly increase the chance of survival for those involved in a waterborne crash.

In a flurry of emails, paramedics from across the province, incensed by the move to eliminate HUET as part of mandatory training, expressed their frustrations:

"I have difficulty believing that an organization that advertises itself as world class, would suggest that underwater escape training be anything but mandatory for their crews.”

"Does the degradation of this standard reflect a corporate policy of choosing safety and survivability only when cost effective?”

"The change in format in the way underwater escape training is delivered is a further example of the watering down of the survival training that was previously delivered to flight crews and it threatens our safety and our lives.”

Chuck Telky, CAW Chairperson for Ornge Paramedics wants HUET training to remain mandatory as it increases the chances of survival in the event of a water landing.

"Our members understand the need to be fiscally responsible,” says Telky. "But saving the lives of patients and paramedics has to trump cutting training – just to save a buck.”

In his letter to the minister’s office, President Lewenza has offered the CAW’s assistance to resolve this matter and is currently waiting for a response.