DSSAB to operate ambulance service

In an effort to control costs and provide uniform service, the Rainy River District Social Services Administration board voted last night not to renew contracts with its land ambulance service providers and instead assume direct operating responsibility.
“The overall accountability to the public for land ambulance services has always been the responsibility of the RRDSSAB,” noted board chair Val Pizey, who also is mayor of Lake of the Woods Township.
“The limited say that the RRDSSAB, municipalities, and unincorporated areas had in ensuring quality of service, implementing change, and improving efficiencies while remaining accountable to the province was a concern,” she added.
The province transferred responsibility for land ambulance to the local DSSAB, on behalf of municipalities and unincorporated areas, on Jan. 1, 2001.
At that time, the board elected to sign contracts with two hospital-based service providers—Atikokan General Hospital and Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.
Those contracts are set to expire Dec. 31, 2006, at which time the DSSAB will direct assume direct operating responsibility.
The board said the assumption of direct management of land ambulance services will provide opportunities to further improve efficiencies and ensure uniformity of service across the district.
“This decision was not taken lightly or a simple one to make,” Pizey remarked.
“We have had the privilege to work with two outstanding operators for the past five years and look forward to continuing this relationship during the transition of service,” she added.
All paramedics presently employed by the current contracted service providers will be offered employment, the board said.
“The move to a direct delivery model will not change the front-line delivery of services being provided across the Rainy River District,” the board said in a statement.
“Residents in our district can continue to rely on the continued availability and responsiveness of the Emergency Medical System (EMS),” it added.
For months, the local DSSAB has been lobbying the province to increase its funding for land ambulance. When the service was devolved in 2001, it agreed to share the cost of the service 50/50 with municipalities.
But the DSSAB says the province only is covering about 30 percent of the cost.
The Ontario Auditor General’s report for 2005 noted the cost to run ambulance services almost has doubled since it was downloaded—from $352 million in 2003-04 to $683 million now.