Posted on April 10 2017 at 3 pm
Patience wearing thin about PR ambulance problem
Emergency Services director Michel Chrétien presented the United Counties of Prescott & Russell council (UCPR) with a presentation on the situation concerning the City of Ottawa’s over-dependence on the UCPR’s ambulance units to answer emergency calls from the city. During the discussion that followed, some mayors on counties council indicated they were tired of waiting for the province and Ottawa to fix the problem.
“When you’re waiting for an ambulance, and it’s a life-or-death situation,” said mayor Pierre Leroux of Russell Township, “that’s when my patience runs out.”
The ambulance situation between the UCPR and the City of Ottawa reached a crisis point last month when, for a short period of time, there were no UCPR ambulance units available for any emergencies in Prescott-Russell because they were all dealing with Ottawa call-outs.
The issue gained prominence in regional media, including the Ottawa daily papers, because of a complaint filed by an Embrun mother about the long wait for an ambulance, when her infant son was suffering seizures and needed to go to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). All of the Prescott-Russell ambulance service units were dealing with Ottawa calls at the time.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has since issued a directive to Ottawa’s ambulance service for changes to its call-out policy to make its own units and paramedics more available to deal with its own emergency calls.
During his report to counties council, Chrétien explained the history behind the changes to the provincial Ambulance Act that has created the current problem, and also why the UCPR is no longer allowed to bill the City of Ottawa for travel and staff costs when a Prescott-Russell ambulance unit deals with an Ottawa call. The UCPR has since submitted a request to a new health ministry aid fund for about $700,000, in compensation for the costs of dealing with Ottawa ambulance calls.
Chrétien outlined a six-step plan in his report to confront the City of Ottawa and the province with the seriousness of the situation and force them to develop a solution that eliminates Ottawa’s over-dependence on the UCPR ambulance service. The final steps of the plan would, if necessary, involve filing formal complaints with both the Ontario Ombudsman and the Auditor-General.
“I think we’ve been waiting long enough,” said mayor Leroux. “I would suggest that the waiting is over and we should proceed with all the steps.”
“We’ll keep knocking on the door,” said warden Gary Barton, adding that he has noted that recent media coverage of the situation, including reports in the Ottawa daily papers, have been “sympathetic” towards Prescott-Russell.