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BC orders paramedics back to work

Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon says the H1N1 flu, not the 2010 Winter Olympics, is why the government is ordering B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics back to work.

"We’ve got a healthcare challenge in B.C. and we need all parties working together," Falcon said.

Paramedics, members of CUPE 873, have worked to rule since their contract expired last spring. The back-to-work legislation gives paramedics a 3% pay raise and one-year contract retroactive to April 1. The government is appointing an industrial inquiry commissioner, which was among the paramedics’ demands.

Falcon said B.C. has “gotten lucky” because he said the strike has not harmed any patients.

"Every day the strike continues increases the risk to patients and it’s my view we cannot go another day with the ambulance paramedic system operating at less than its full potential," he said.

Paramedics erected a picket line at the Whistler Sliding Centre Monday morning. Spokesman B.J. Chute said it was unfair that two ambulances and four paramedics were assigned to Olympic training sessions while the number of ambulances in Metro Vancouver was down by 10 on Hallowe’en. He said he was unaware of any paramedics assigned to this week’s Exercise Gold full-scale Olympic security exercise.

"If we’re not there, we’re missing out on some really valuable training time," Chute said.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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