Ambulance crisis

Finding and funding paramedics was the chief concern at the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board meeting here last Thursday night.
The group, along with other social services boards across the region, is preparing for a meeting with the province to discuss the ongoing ambulance crisis.
“It helps when you can speak with one voice, everybody on the same issue,” Donna Dittaro, chief administrative officer for the local DSSAB, said Monday.
At the meeting with Health and Long-Term Care officials slated for Aug. 8 in Sault Ste. Marie, Dittaro hoped concerns over funding ambulance services and changes in paramedic qualifications will be resolved.
Back on Jan. 1, 2001, the Ontario government downloaded administration for land ambulance services to local service boards.
“It has a big impact on funding here,” Dittaro said. “There is $142,000 from last year that is outstanding and we are waiting to receive from the ministry.”
Money owed to the board will be just one of the concerns discussed at next month’s meeting.
“The legislation has changed and we want to ensure we’re able to meet the legal responsibilities and make sure people are qualified,” Dittaro noted.
At the start of this year, volunteers working more than 24 hours a week required EMCA certification.
Certification includes 800 hours of theory alone on topics such as pharmacology, pathophysiology, and anatomy, 300 hours of lab and hospital clinical, and 450 hours of workers’ time.
The qualifying tests alone cost $400.
There was some concern the region would not have enough qualified staff once the new legislation took effect.
“We’re doing O.K. but there are only so many fully-qualified paramedics in the province and the country. It is so competitive to try to attract employees to come here,” Dittaro stressed.
She said the pay scale for a paramedic here is comparable with Dryden, Kenora, Thunder Bay, and other areas throughout the region, but that there are fewer calls for staff to go out on.
“It’s not like in Toronto where they are out every five minutes on a call,” she noted.
Social services boards also will highlight concerns over future legislation changes, such as ambulance attendants requiring EMCA certification for employment and that there has to be a primary care paramedic on each vehicle by 2006.