Province urged to address ambulance crisis

Town council agreed Monday night to endorse the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board petitioning Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement to declare this district a priority for funding to fully staff land ambulance services.
“We have an issue within the Rainy River District, and all over Ontario, to do with land ambulance services and a shortage of paramedics,” said Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who also sits on DSSAB as chair of the land ambulance board.
“It’s very important. It’s reached a crisis situation,” he stressed.
Coun. Bourgeault noted the problem is the result of new legislation affecting staffing requirements for land ambulance services.
These changes, in turn, have resulted in the loss of volunteers—which previously have contributed significantly to the services—to staff land ambulance in the district.
“There is a shortage of qualified paramedics in the province of Ontario, and paramedic wages are increasingly rapidly as designated delivery agents of land ambulance compete to attract and retain land ambulance personnel,” Coun. Bourgeault noted.
Many of the current district land ambulance staff require training to meet the legislated requirements for employment in compliance with the Ambulance Act—and the cost has been estimated at $17,000 per employee.
“People are leaving. They’re saying, ‘Why should I pay it?’” said Coun. Bourgeault.
The lack of qualified paramedics also means a greater workload for those who are, which discourages them from staying here.
“It can be extremely difficult to work here in terms of weather, travel times, vehicle breakdowns, numbers of hours worked. It’s not a good situation,” Coun. Bourgeault warned.
Consequently, land ambulance operators in the district are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfill their contractual agreements with DSSAB—and have indicated they may be forced to default on them.
Coun. Bourgeault noted a Land Ambulance Response Time Improvement Framework Form was completed and submitted to the ministry in September for funding to meet staffing needs in the district.
But funding has yet to be approved.
“If we don’t get qualified paramedics by a certain time, what happens then?” asked Coun. Struchan Gilson.
“That’s a good question. There’s no real answer yet,” Coun. Bourgeault replied. “It’ll take money and changes to the regulations to get it rectified.”
Council’s resolution also will be forwarded to NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton, Fort William MPP Lyn McLeod (Lib.), all member municipalities, and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association.
The resolution was unanimously approved by all 15 DSSAB members at board’s regular meeting here last Thursday.