New am­bu­lance ‘pri­or­ity’

Of­fi­cials work­ing to re­duce times when no lo­cal am­bu­lances avail­able to an­swer calls

The Expositor (Brantford) - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL-AL­LAN MARION MMar­ion@post­media.com @ex­pMar­ion

Adding to the num­ber of lo­cal am­bu­lances is a pri­or­ity, says Brant County Mayor Ron Eddy.

“We will shortly be start­ing our bud­get dis­cus­sions for 2018, but it takes a while to have some­thing like that ap­proved, bought and on the road,” said Eddy.

“As far as I’m con­cerned it’s a pri­or­ity item.

“We have to meet the calls, it’s as sim­ple as that.”

Of­fi­cials are work­ing to deal with a se­ri­ous prob­lem where about twice a day no am­bu­lances are avail­able to re­spond to calls in Brant­ford and Brant County.

A Brant County staff re­port shows that, up to the end of Au­gust, there were 459 in­ci­dents – an av­er­age of nearly two a day — where there was no am­bu­lance to go to an emer­gency call. That meant that dispatch had to rely on neighbouring com­mu­ni­ties to an­swer calls.

Am­bu­lance of­fi­cials and Eddy ac­knowl­edge the prob­lem is se­vere but they say mea­sures taken have caused the av­er­age to drop to un­der two calls a day in the past month.

The ac­qui­si­tion of one ad­di­tional am­bu­lance and the trans­fer of some paramedics to a day shift from a night one are the big­gest rea­sons for the slight im­prove­ment, said Eddy.

With the new ve­hi­cle, there are now eight am­bu­lances avail­able dur­ing the day and four at night to cover an area of 130,000 peo­ple from three bases in Brant­ford and one in Paris.

Am­bu­lance di­rec­tor Charles Longe­way said he is op­ti­mistic that progress is be­ing made.

“We’re quite pleased with the fact that it’s trend­ing in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion,” he said.

But the union rep­re­sent­ing paramedics on the front lines says those mea­sures are too small to make any dif­fer­ence and dras­tic ac­tion is needed.

“They’ve had one month that the num­bers went down a lit­tle bit, but re­ally it’s not go­ing to get any bet­ter,” said Jeff Gra­ham, unit stew­ard of Lo­cal 256 of the On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union.

“We’re en­ter­ing into the cold and flu sea­son which is the busiest time of the year for us. Last year’s num­bers went through the roof. If the call vol­ume goes up for this year’s sea­son, it can only get worse.

“There will be more oc­ca­sions when there will be no am­bu­lances avail­able. The worst case sce­nario is that peo­ple will die.”

The county and the city have been work­ing on the prob­lem for more than a year.

In 2016, Longe­way and city coun­cil­lors pushed to buy two new am­bu­lances. But county coun­cil­lors de­cided to buy none and in­stead hired an ex­ter­nal con­sul­tant to ex­am­ine the am­bu­lance ser­vice.

The con­sul­tant’s re­port con­cluded the ser­vice is op­er­at­ing at over­ca­pac­ity be­cause call vol­umes are ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally and too few re­sources are be­ing added to keep the ser­vice sus­tain­able.

Here are some de­tails from the con­sul­tant re­port: • There were 1,192 times in 2016 in which no am­bu­lances were avail­able to re­spond to an emer­gency• It was the fifth con­sec­u­tive year in which no am­bu­lances were avail­able more than 1,000 times. • To make up for the short­fall, outof-the-area am­bu­lances were called 1,218 times. Am­bu­lances have been sent from Hamilton, Nor­folk County, Haldimand County, Six Na­tions and as far away as Kitch­ener-Water­loo• On those oc­ca­sions, the av­er­age re­sponse time for an am­bu­lance was 18 min­utes, dou­ble what is nor­mal if the ve­hi­cle is in the county, and dou­ble the min­istry’s ac­cept­able re­sponse time. • In a com­par­i­son with other ju­ris­dic­tions of sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion, the con­sul­tant said Brant is “far busier but has fewer re­sources avail­able to meet the de­mand.”

A ma­jor prob­lem is off-load­ing of pa­tients at Brant­ford Gen­eral hospi­tal.

“It’s very se­ri­ous,” said Eddy. ”If they can’t drop off a pa­tient, they’re left sit­ting there and not able to take an­other call.

“That’s some­thing that has to be ex­am­ined be­cause it hap­pens too of­ten.”

The county and the city ap­proved the pur­chase of one am­bu­lance, which re­cently went into ser­vice, but no de­ci­sion has been made on the sec­ond one re­quested.

Eddy sug­gested that, to speed up the process, it’s pos­si­ble to or­der the am­bu­lance ahead and have it ap­proved in the 2018 bud­get.

“We could cer­tainly look at that. The need is ur­gent.”

BRIAN THOMP­SON/THE EXPOSITOR

About twice a day no am­bu­lances are avail­able to re­spond to calls in Brant­ford and Brant County.

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