Am­bu­lance chiefs forge new agree­ment

Le Reflet (The News) - - LA UNE - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN [email protected]

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.

—pho­to Gregg Chamberlain

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...

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