Fight for ambulance funding rages on

Although the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board has been sounding the alarm over a flaw in the funding formula for land ambulance service since 2001, the provincial government is no closer to making the necessary changes.
“We’re still fighting the fight over the unincorporated share,” DSSAB CEO Donna Dittaro said.
At present, she explained, there is a 50/50 funding split between the province and DSSAB for ambulance services. DSSAB’s portion then is redistributed to the municipalities.
In this district, there are 10 municipalities and unincorporated areas, the latter of which represents 17 percent of the area covered by the DSSAB.
The main point of contention, said Dittaro, is that the unincorporated areas of the district don’t have the population base to raise the funds to pay for the ambulance service.
To that end, no one is able to pick up the tab.
She noted agreements with other ministries allows DSSABs to bill the province for the uncovered costs, but the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care will not.
“It’s just a tad frustrating because it works well with the other ministries,” Dittaro said. “Their set-up is different. Their funding formula is flawed.
“If the government doesn’t come through, it falls on the shoulders of the municipalities to cover,” she said, referring to redistributing the incurred costs across the district among the municipalities.
She explained that as of March 31, 2002, the total costs incurred for land ambulance services in unincorporated areas in the district topped $720,000.
“If this isn’t resolved by the end of the year, it’s estimated it will be $1.2 million they’ll owe us,” Dittaro noted. “The longer it goes, the worse it gets.
“I wrote a letter to the ministry again the other week asking them to sit down with us face-to-face,” she added.
“We are totally frustrated with ministry’s refusal, to date, to deal with this issue,” Dittaro wrote in that letter dated April 9. “Our DSSAB board members, member municipalities, MPPs, municipal association, and Northern Service Deliverer’s Group have all voiced their concerns through various avenues—all to no avail.”
One avenue that does hold some promise is a Land Ambulance Implementation Steering Committee that was formed to look at concerns stemming from the funding template.
The committee was set up by the ministry to look into the program.
Dittaro said other DSSABs also are affected by the funding formula issue in regard to unincorporated areas, including Kenora District.
“It’s the same problem here,” said Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield. “It appears to be [a northern issue]. It’s something that definitely has to be addressed, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Mayor Canfield also is the northwestern rep on the steering committee.
“I brought it up [with the committee],” he said. “We thought it had been addressed.
“We had explained it but [the committee] is still wrestling with it,” he added. “They’re disagreeing with our DSSAB’s explanation of it.”
Mayor Canfield said the committee has not met in some time, noting scheduled meetings this month were cancelled due to the SARS scare.
“The meeting’s been held off because of SARS,” he remarked.
“Right now it’s being overshadowed by the SARS issues,” agreed Dittaro. “Hopefully, they can fit us in [soon].”