Clea­ring am­bu­lance bill is just a start says coun­ties


If the Ci­ty of Ottawa would hur­ry up and pay up on its over­due share of the am­bu­lance ser­vice bill bet­ween it and the Uni­ted Coun­ties, that would be nice as far as the mayors of the re­gion are concer­ned. But it would just be the start of fixing the si­tua­tion.

“Whe­ther or not we get fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion, that does not fix the pro­blem,” said Sté­phane Pa­ri­sien, chief ad­mi­nis­tra­tor for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR), du­ring the coun­cil’s April 26 ses­sion.

Pa­ri­sien’s comment was part of his res­ponse to a ques­tion from Mayor Ro­bert Kir­by of East Haw­kes­bu­ry Town­ship, about whe­ther the pro­vin­cial go­vern­ment has re­spon­ded to the UCPR’s de­mand for help get­ting the Ci­ty of Ottawa to pay up its over-due debt for the use of Pres­cott-Rus­sell am­bu­lance units and pa­ra­me­dics, to deal with Ottawa emer­gen­cy calls.

Kir­by’s ques­tion fol­lo­wed a re­view of a let­ter the coun­ties coun­cil re­cei­ved from the Mi­nis­try of Health and Long-Term Care concer­ning its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a si­tua­tion, Au­gust 6 of last year, when all of Pres­cottRus­sell’s am­bu­lance crews were dea­ling with Ottawa calls, re­sul­ting in ve­ry long days for re­si­dents in the two coun­ties who nee­ded am­bu­lance ser­vice.

The pro­vin­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that part of the pro­blem was a re­sult of the Ci­ty of Ottawa’s own po­li­cies for its own am­bu­lance crews dea­ling with shift changes, and al­so the tur­na­round time bet­ween brin­ging a pa­tient by am­bu­lance to a hos­pi­tal, clea­ning and re­sto­cking the unit, and then tel­ling dis­patch that the unit was avai­lable again for calls. Ottawa has been told to make changes to its shift po­li­cy to help deal with the si­tua­tion and the mi­nis­try has now de­cla­red the in­ves­ti­ga­tion clo­sed.

Meanw­hile the mi­nis­try is al­so “conduc­ting an ana­ly­sis,” ac­cor­ding to Pa­ri­sien, on a de­tai­led fi­nan­cial brief the UCPR sent concer­ning Ottawa’s de­linquent am­bu­lance ser­vice debt. The UCPR coun­cil has since ap­pro­ved a six-point pro­to­col from ad­mi­nis­tra­tion for lob­bying both the pro­vince and Ottawa to di­scharge the debt, in­clu­ding fi­ling for­mal com­plaints to both the On­ta­rio Om­bud­sman and the au­di­tor-ge­ne­ral if no­thing suc­ceeds in get­ting sa­tis­fac­tion.

But Pa­ri­sien no­ted that even if the debt gets paid some day, the pro­blem bet­ween the Ci­ty of Ottawa and all of its coun­ty neigh­bours, in­clu­ding the UCPR, will conti­nue be­cause of the changes that Queen’s Park made se­ve­ral years ago to the pro­vin­cial am­bu­lance po­li­cy re­gu­la­tions, wi­thout consul­ting the mu­ni­ci­pal and re­gio­nal go­vern­ments.

“We’re hand­ling more (am­bu­lance) calls than we ever did be­fore,” Pa­ri­sien said, ad­ding that the big pro­blem is the pro­vince’s de­fi­ni­tion of “seam­less­ness” for dis­patch ser­vices de­ci­ding how to as­si­gn calls, be­cause it makes the chances equal of ei­ther an Ottawa unit or a UCPR unit get­ting an Ottawa call.

Michel Ch­ré­tien, UCPR emer­gen­cy ser­vices di­rec­tor, al­so no­ted that when the pro­vince made the changes to the am­bu­lance ser­vice po­li­cy, the Ci­ty of Ottawa ma­na­ge­ment had the fo­re­sight to take ad­van­tage of the new “seam­less­ness” de­fi­ni­tion. It star­ted concen­tra­ting its exis­ting staff on the call vo­lume for the ci­ty’s core area and left the out­lying ru­ral and small ur­ban areas for the neigh­bou­ring am­bu­lance ser­vices in UCPR, La­nark and other coun­ties to handle through sha­red dis­patch.

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