Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.
Counties approves new ambulance return policy
In two months Prescott-Russell ambulance units will go on “silent running” mode part of the time, at least until they are safe back in their own territory.
It’s the latest tactic for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) in its ongoing fight with both the City of Ottawa and the provincial government concerning the emergency dispatch system for ambulances in Ontario.
Counties council approved a resolution following a closed-door session Wednesday to allow Michel Chrétien, UCPR emergency services director (see photo), to modify department protocol for dealing with calls from outside of Prescott-Russell. The UCPR will notify the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that this change takes effect within the next 60 days.
The current protocol, based on provincial policy, is that when an ambulance deals with an emergency call outside of its normal operating area, the unit remains available for dispatch to another such call even when it is headed back to its own region.
The UCPR will change that protocol for its own ambulance service. Prescott-Russell units will still be available to take an outside call from dispatch. But when the unit has finished the assignment, including taking a patient to a hospital outside of the region, the paramedic crew will then take themselves off the “dispatch availability” list until they and their unit have returned to base back in Prescott-Russell. The unit will then become available again for all dispatch calls.
Counties council’s decision is based on legal advice on how to deal with the ongoing “dispatch crisis” affecting the PR ambulance service. Instead of buying more ambulance units and training more paramedics, the City of Ottawa makes regular use of ambulances from neighbouring Prescott-Russell and Lanark counties to deal with its own calls. The situation has reached the point where sometimes residents in those counties face long waits for an ambulance when they have an emergency.
UCPR council has protested the situation several times to both Ottawa and the provincial government with little result. The City of Ottawa also has an outstanding debt of more than $1 million for its demands on PR ambulance units but refuses to pay the bill since there is no cost-sharing agreement between it and the UCPR.
“The ongoing and irresponsible use of our ambulances to serve the City of Ottawa is both a financial and an operational issue,” stated UCPR Warden François St-Amour, “which leads to an increase in (home) response times and a significant lack of resources, contrary to the Ontario Ambulance Act.”