“We’re expecting an investigation (call),” said Michel Chrétien, director of emergency services for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR).
Chrétien anticipates that kind of action from the health ministry in response to the “silent running” protocol that went into effect June 4 in the long-running battle between the UCPR, the City of Ottawa, and Ontario’s health ministry over out-of-town ambulance calls.
Ottawa owes the counties more than $1 million in costs for use of Prescott-Russell ambulance units to handle some of the city’s emergency calls. But Ottawa claims it is under no legal obligation to pay.
Meanwhile Ottawa continues to make use of counties ambulances to deal with some of its calls. Provincial policy for ambulance dispatch requires units to respond to a call when required, even if it is in a neighbouring jurisdiction. Sometimes the demand by Ottawa on PR ambulance units has been so great that there are no units available when UCPR residents need ambulance service.
UCPR officials have complained about the situation to Queens Park during both the Wynne Liberal and the Ford Progressive Conservative administrations. The counties have become tired at the lack of results and now have a “silent running” protocol in place for the PR ambulance service.
Prescott-Russell units which are returning to home base after dealing with a call outside of their area will ignore any other outside calls from provincial dispatch until they have returned to base. Then they will be available for outside calls again.
The “silent running” protocol is the latest tactic by the counties to get provincial action on the ambulance dispatch situation. Chrétien expects the protocol may provoke a challenge from the health ministry through an investigation on any one or more of the outside ambulance dispatch calls which PR units refused while on their way back to base. He said he would welcome the chance to explain the situation in court to a judge.