Ambulance chiefs forge new agreement
Ambulance shortages for emergencies in Prescott-Russell may become a thing of the past soon.
The four directors for emergency services in the City of Ottawa, Renfrew County, the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), and the City of Cornwall have worked out the terms for a simple agreement on responsibility that would make a big reduction in the number of outside call-outs for PrescottRussell ambulance units.
“It could reduce it (outside call-outs) by 60 to 80 per cent,” said Michel Chrétien, UCPR emergency services director. “That would be tremendous. That is in the neighbourhood of 1000 (outside) calls a year. It would be like having an extra ambulance available for every one of our shifts.”
The outside call-outs issue has been a longstanding grievance for the UCPR ambulance service. Under the current provincial “seamlessness” guidelines for ambulance dispatch, the City of Ottawa has often benefitted from having UCPR units respond because they are closer or available, even if the situation proves not to be a real emergency.
The situation has gotten so bad during the past few years that there have been times when no Prescott-Russell ambulance unit was available for local calls because the dispatch had sent them all to Ottawa. The UCPR has complained often about the situation to the provincial government and has since taken the drastic measure, this year, of sending the province the outstanding bill of more than $1 million that Ottawa and Cornwall together have accumulated for their use of Prescott-Russell ambulance units. Both Ottawa and Cornwall have each refused to acknowledge UCPR’s claim to any ambulance service debt, arguing that there is requirement for them to reimburse the counties under the terms of the current provincial emergency dispatch protocol.
The directors for all four municipal and regional ambulance services met through the past summer and have worked out a simple list of new criteria to deal with mutual aid requests. Each service will deal with all non-emergency calls in their areas in future.
“We all agreed that it should be our own responsibility to respond to emergency calls in our own municipalities,” said Chrétien.
But each service will remain available to help if needed for outside calls, in a neighbouring region, which involve a cardiac arrest situation, a patient who is unconscious, or a situation like a major traffic accident scenario. Chrétien noted that these types of mutual aid scenarios are all situations when getting an ambulance to the scene soon is a life-or-death matter.
“So we’re not really reinventing the wheel,” he said, adding that the simplified mutual aid agreement just requires dispatchers to make more of an effort to determine if an ambulance call fits the “time sensitive” critieria for an outside ambulance unit referral.
UCPR council gave support in principle to the proposed new mutual aid criteria during its Aug. 23 regular session. Council also agreed to give Chrétien authority to lodge a legal challenge if the provincial government refused to accept and support the proposal which the four ambulance services have developed.
The new simplified agreement will go into practice by Oct. 1, following resolution approvals from all the municipal governments involved with the four ambulance services. Chrétien expects to have his department’s resolution on UCPR council’s table later in September.
La pénurie d’ambulances pour les urgences dans Prescott-Russell pourrait devenir une chose du passé. Michel Chrétien, directeur des services d’urgence des Comtés unis de Prescott et Russell (CUPR), et ses homologues du comté de Renfrew et des villes d’Ottawa et de Cornwall, ont élaboré un accord d’entraide simplifié qui devrait éliminer les problèmes prioritaires d’envoi qui ont prévalu dans ces juridictions adjacentes à la Ville d’Ottawa.