Ambulance funding called ‘drop in the bucket’

Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement announced last Wednesday the Ontario government is investing $60,000 in Rainy River District as part of $10 million in special grants to improve land ambulance services across the province.
“Our government is committed to helping municipalities provide quality ambulance services,” Clement said in a press release.
“This funding will ensure the vehicles and equipment necessary to maintain and improve ambulance services are available throughout the province,” he added.
This funding is in addition to the $5 million announced last September to replace defibrillators and vehicles.
But the district already has used the money to replace nine defibrillators, said Donna Dittaro, CAO of the local District Social Services Administration Board.
“We received just over $29,000 [last September]. This $60,000 was a one-time grant only applied to the purchase of defibrillators to offset the cost,” she noted.
“That’s a drop. That $60,000 is a drop [in the bucket].”
While 37 communities received part of the latest $10 million in funding, Kenora District wasn’t included.
“I find that unusual, I would have thought everyone was eligible,” Dittaro said.
Sten Lif, CAO of the DSSAB in Kenora, said he wasn’t sure why his district was left off the list.
“We haven’t received anything here,” he said. “We have submitted a substantial amount. We applied for funding enhancement last October.”
As part of last September’s funding announcement, Kenora did receive about $35,000.
The ministry could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Meanwhile, Rainy River District also has a sizable funding request in with the Ministry of Health.
“We’re waiting to hear about two funding requests that we submitted to the minister,” Dittaro said. “We submitted a huge submission to the government back in September.
“The government asked how [district service boards] could increase response times. We concentrated on staffing and bases—we need some upgrades, for example, in the Town of Rainy River,” she continued.
“DSSAB did pass the budget a couple of weeks ago and did increase the funding,” said Dittaro. “Our biggest fight right now is over the incorporated—they’re not funding it correctly.
“Last year, they owed us over $160,000 and they only paid us $18,000, so we’re going after them for that.”
Both DSSABs in Rainy River and Kenora have been waiting a year for the funding.
“We understand that with a growing and aging population, the demand for ambulance services will continue to increase,” Clement said.
“This money means that municipalities all across the province will have the tools they need to improve ambulance response times to meet that demand.”
“Municipal governments are committed to building and maintaining an ambulance system that meets the needs of their communities,” said Roger Anderson, municipal co-chair of the Land Ambulance Implementation Steering Committee.
“The province’s financial partnership is helpful and these grants are an important instalment to this partnership.”
This investment is part of the government’s “SuperBuild” strategy to improve health infrastructure.
On Jan. 1, 2001, the Ontario government downloaded administration for land ambulance services to district service boards.
As of 2006, ambulance attendants will need EMCA certification for employment and there has to be a primary care paramedic on each vehicle.
Volunteers working more than 24 hours a week also will need EMCA certification.