Paramedics spending more time at home
With Ottawa paramedics being directed to change its dispatch practices, County of Renfrew paramedics are beginning to see less reliance on them to respond to emergency calls in the nation’s capital.
Earlier this year, Eric Hoskins, minister of health and long-term care, ordered that paramedics were to no longer have a mandatory 30-minute period where they are not available for another call when they are dropping off a patient at the hospital. As well, Ottawa paramedics will no longer be taken out of service in the last 30 minutes of their shift.
Renfrew County paramedics had been forced to respond to more calls in the Ottawa-area, as the city’s ambulance deployment plan focused on its urban core as opposed to the rural, outlying areas within its periphery. That resulted in the county taking 55 per cent more calls in 2016 alone.
County council last month received a report from Michael Nolan, chief of the Renfrew County Paramedic Service and director of emergency services, who attended a meeting in March of the Ottawa Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC)/ Ottawa Paramedic Service. Among the changes Ottawa is implementing is that all Ottawa units will be available for emergency response calls, or Code 4’s, until the end of their shift. This is intended to reduce call responses required by surrounding communities.
In addition, Renfrew County paramedics will not respond to urgent Code 3 calls outside of the county if there are less than seven vehicles available inside the county to serve the community. The Ottawa CACC will contract the Renfrew CACC for approval of assignments of low priority transfers back to the county.
“The minister’s involvement certainly expedited Ottawa making some changes in terms of making its own resources more available to its own community,” said Nolan. “It provided a level playing field for all paramedic services to ensure that no matter who you are in Ontario that you get the closest available paramedic service in the most life-threatening situations.”
Based upon the judgment of the shift commander and current deployment requirements within the county, Renfrew County paramedic crews in Ottawa can be designated as conditionally available for first response.
Nolan noted this was a positive change for the service, allowing crews to return to the county as quickly as possible. Conditional availability will be communicated to the ottawa CaCC by the shift commander allowing crews to return to the county and informing ottawa that it will need to send a transporting crew for the patient. The exceptions would be if the county has the closest response to a time sensitive illness or injury to the patient.
“These changes will be closely monitored to ensure the best possible outcome for our communities,” said Horton Township Mayor robert kingsbury, deputy-chairman of the health committee. “The impact of these changes will be reported regularly to our committee and council.”