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Paramedics fall asleep, roll ambulance

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An ambulance was pulled from a ditch on Highway 16, east of Neepawa Tuesday morning when the two paramedics operating it fell asleep and rolled the vehicle, in what has been referred to as a "common" case of work-induced fatigue for paramedics who work in a rural area.

"I believe it can be related to a fatigue issue," said Wayne Chacun, who is a paramedic in Virden and represents paramedics in the Manitoba Government Employees Union, about the accident which happened just before 7 a.m. "They didn’t get a chance to have any sleep."

The two paramedics, neither of which sustained injuries when the ambulance rolled over, were driving back to Swan River after dropping off a patient in Winnipeg, and Chacun explained that both of them work full-time hours but must also be available as "on call" or "stand up" which means they sometimes have to go to work when they would have been catching up on sleep.

"The pager went off seven times," Chacun said, explaining that is the reason they both were short on sleep.

Chacun said there is a shortage of paramedics in rural areas because paramedics are paid 35 per cent less than paramedics who work in Winnipeg are paid, and that forces the ones who do work in the rural areas to work more hours. He called work-induced fatigue among paramedics a "problem" in rural communities.

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