The private ambulance route?
With paramedics continuing to strike, some alternative, and costly, measures are being proposed to deal with the reduction in ambulance service. The issue was discussed at the last South Glengarry council meeting. Councillor Bill Mackenzie suggested that the municipality consider hiring a private ambulance company to cover in a serious emergency. “But it’s expensive, very expensive I can tell you because I used it once,” said Mr. Mackenzie. “As I recall it was between $400 and $800 to go from Cornwall to Ottawa.”
Deputy Mayor Frank Prevost suggested another possibility if the strike wears on -- an agreement with Prescott-Russell emergency services for the use of one of its vehicles.
Councillor Lyle Warden suggested drafting a letter to the Province asking that emergency medical services be made essential. He said that it’s not the mandate of the municipality or any other lower- tier level of government to deal with this kind of service. “I think our job is to lobby to have it considered as an essential service.”
Council received an update from Fire Chief Dave Robertson on medical emergency preparedness during the ongoing Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) strike.
Three out of the regular nine ambulances in Stormont-DundasGlengarry remain in service since the walkout, and only two at night.
Paramedics’ right to strike is limited by an essential services agreement between CUPE and the City of Cornwall that ensures that residents have access to essential services in the event of a strike.
A problem that could affect medical emergency response times in SD&G is the baffling paramedic deployment model that can tie up the limited ambulances in the region.
“What often happens is, take a case like a stroke patient, the ambulance bypasses local hospitals and goes straight to Ottawa,” Chief Robertson explained to council.
“So now they are out of our territory, and as soon as they offload the patient and are back in service, they're the closest ambulance to that hospital and required to answer City of Ottawa calls. And this is what’s happened over the last couple of years, especially with the counties of Prescott and Russell.”
During the strike, only those patients with urgent and emergency health issues should call for an ambulance. Call 911 for ambulance assistance if it is needed for severe emergencies such as shortness of breath, chest pain, major traumatic injury or unconsciousness. Alternatives to calling 911 include taking a personal vehicle or taxi to the hospital, calling Telehealth Ontario toll-free at 1-866-797-0000, visiting a pharmacy, clinic, or doctor. During strike action, no routine transfers will take place. In the event of a major emergency, striking paramedics will be called onto the job.