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Paramedics show their frustration

Paramedics haven't come down with swine flu; the weekend's sudden staffing shortage was an orchestrated act by disgruntled employees, according to the BC Ambulance Service.

Just as they were legislated back to work after a prolonged strike, 50 paramedics booked off Friday on short notice - causing the service to warn 9-1-1 callers about lengthy delays for low-priority calls. The shortages continued through the weekend, with the service down 16 ambulances Sunday.

"This is not happenstance," said BC Ambulance Service CEO Lee Doney. "It is being orchestrated. Hopefully this is just frustration on their part."

The Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. denied directing its members to call in sick, but spokesman BJ Chute says the situation highlighted the dire staffing shortages faced by paramedics.

"It's clear there are not enough paramedics in the system," he said. "We don't even have enough to fill vacant shifts."

The union says the situation will get worse during the Olympics, even though paramedics have yet to see the Games-time plan.

"We're in the dark," he said. "But we already have 100 vacant shifts being filled through overtime, and we expect demand for about 200 extra ones [for the Olympics]. I don't know where they're going to get these paramedics from."

Matt Kieltyka reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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