The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), which represents the 11 counties in the region, along with the cities of Ottawa and Cornwall, completed its in-depth review of ambulance service and paramedic services in the region. Marc-André Périard, director of emergency services for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR), summarized the results of the report for the eight mayors on UCPR council during their Wednesday committee of the whole session.
“It’s a very detailed report,” Périard said about the 64-page main report along with the 364-page appendix. He noted that the conclusions of the EOWC report match a recent assessment by the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs (OAPC).
Both the EOWC and the OAPC urge the provincial government to focus more attention on improving the emergency dispatch system for ambulance services, making it more efficient and effective, and less time on proposals for amalgamating Ontario’s regional ambulance services into a dozen “super region” units.
“We learned from the review,” stated the EOWC report, “that while over 68 per cent of ambulance calls are dispatched as ‘highest urgency,’ fewer than 26 per cent are actually found to be of highest urgency when paramedics arrive. Addressing this disparity in the dispatch system will help improve and ensure that the deployment of resources meets actual needs.”
The EOWC report also urged the provincial government to deal with the “hospital offload delay” for paramedics when they bring in patients. Paramedics sometimes end up waiting at an emergency department for someone to take charge of a patient, because there is not enough hospital staff available to respond when an ambulance arrives. This often results in long delays before ambulance units are available again to respond to other emergency calls.
A final recommendation in the report is for more provincial funding of community paramedicine programs to provide at-home health treatment services for seniors. This would reduce some of the pressure on hospital acute-care bed space.