South Glengarry ponders EMS-like transport

South Glengarry Coun. Trevor Bougie listens to council after suggesting the township look at having a private EMS-like transport service while the Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services is on strike. A couple of union members were in the audience for the meeting on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – A South Glengarry councillor wants to look at having a private EMS-like service for its residents in the wake of the City of Cornwall strike.

“We’re left with a situation where…there’s nothing,” Coun. Trevor Bougie said Tuesday night, while adding that he respects labour negotiations.

“Right now, we’re left with a situation where…they (patients) could be waiting, who knows how long. If they can’t get a cab, can’t get a bus, they don’t know anyone in this area, if they call 911 they could be waiting who knows how long,” Bougie said.

The EMS base in Lancaster is effectively closed by the strike with the Personal Response Unit (PRU) SUV, which normally operates 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., permanently parked.

As first responders, the South Glengarry fire department is already feeling the effects. Chief Dave Robertson told council, between May 17-22, they had seven calls, three of which were medical. The service normally sees about 46 “true medical calls” a year or about one a week. Those include heart attack, shortness of breath and unconsciousness.

Robertson said it’s hard to determine whether a slower response time by paramedics is responsible. “I don’t think the call volume has greatly increased for our service to assist paramedics.”

Trying to reassure councillors, Robertson says he heard an ambulance dispatched to a call that was sitting in Lancaster. “They (ambulances) are circulating,” he said.

Mayor Ian McLeod plans to bring the idea up at the next meeting of the Service Manager Joint Liaison Committee, which oversees joint services between the City of Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G.

“Can we privately go out a hire? I would guess we probably could but I don’t know where you would find such a person or that service,” McLeod said. He cited the Prescott-Russell system that has dedicated transport vehicles.

Coun. Bill McKenzie says that type of service can be expensive – roughly $400-800 per trip.

A couple of councillors, including Bougie, and Deputy Mayor Frank Prevost believe the Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services should be an essential service.

A couple of paramedics from CUPE 5734 watched this all play out during the meeting. After the meeting, one indicated to Cornwall Newswatch she would have had much to say about the idea.