DSSAB again defers land ambulance decision

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board once again has deferred a decision on whether to cut land ambulance services locally, giving the province a chance to come forward with needed funding.
The board is negotiating with the province for a new funding formula for First Nations land ambulance services.
“The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has advised that funding for service provided on First Nations, and retroactive funding for Territories Without Municipal Organization, is being determined,” the DSSAB noted in a resolution during its regular monthly meeting here last night.
Due to the ongoing negotiations, the DSSAB agreed to “maintain the existing service levels for land ambulance . . . until such time as further provincial funding announcements are made or the 2006 land ambulance budget is finalized.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides the First Nations funding for calls on-reserve. The DSSAB does not receive the funding for First Nations people attended by paramedics off-reserve.
Local staff are arguing the province should recognize and fund land ambulance services for all First Nation people, whether they are picked up on reserve or not.
Those negotiations continue and will have an effect on whether the DSSAB will have to cut services across the district.
“If we cut, it would be across the board equally,” said board chair and Emo Reeve Russ Fortier.
Last month, the DSSAB learned it would receive $24,442 to cover paramedic wage increases for 2005/06, representing a one percent increase.
The ministry has frozen its funding to cover a one percent increase in wages every year. In reality, paramedic wages across the province have increased dramatically since 2001.
Municipalities are paying the lion’s share of those increases.
The DSSAB also will receive $135,710 for Territories Without Municipal Organization (TWMO), also known as unorganized areas.
In other news, the DSSAB is looking for new accommodations for its offices, and is asking district municipalities if they are willing to help.
“This particular facility is not big enough,” Reeve Fortier noted. “We’ve got people farmed out in several locations now.”
The board also will likely be hiring more people in the coming weeks and months to help implement the province’s “Best Start” program.
As such, it is asking district municipalities to help out financially.
“The DSSAB cannot borrow any money. Only the municipalities can do that,” Reeve Fortier explained.
The board passed a resolution to “approach the municipalities to determine their ability and their willingness to finance all or a portion of new accommodations for the RRDSSAB, including terms and financing.”
Reeve Fortier noted it likely would be cheaper in the long-term for the DSSAB to own its own building, rather than to rent, because it is tax-exempt, but added the board is open to discussion.
“We’re trying to find a solution,” he said.