SD&G EMS calls down during strike

(Newswatch Group/File)

SD&G – While there are fewer ambulances on the road in SD&G during a City of Cornwall municipal strike, the head of Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services says call volumes are also down comparably.

Since the strike started three weeks ago (May 17), SD&G has been served by three ambulances during the day and two at night, compared to the usual complement of nine.

The day the strike started, the City of Cornwall asked residents of SD&G to reserve calling 911 for “severe emergencies” like shortness of breath, chest pain, a major traumatic injury or unconsciousness. It also suggested alternative transport to hospitals such as a personal vehicle or taxi.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch Wednesday, Bill Lister says they are seeing fewer calls while they have fewer ambulances.

“We’re having fewer calls on average. Anywhere between 6 less (calls) per day to 50 per cent less per day and we have less ambulances on the road so it’s proportional. Each individual paramedic is doing more calls per day.”

Lister cited a couple of daily examples. On May 19, 2017 there were 47 calls for service for Cornwall paramedics compared to 13 calls last month (May 19, 2018). “We do have some really heavy days. On May 22, during the strike, we did 40 calls and that same day a year ago we did 34.”

“We are, at points, where we have no available ambulances but we also have no calls going on at that time,” he said. Due to Ontario rules, SD&G is still served by ambulances in Leeds-Grenville, Prescott-Russell and Ottawa.

The EMS chief says the hospitals have been helping the service by unloading patients more quickly.

“The hospitals have been very good about getting patients off our stretchers faster than they normally do so that those ambulances get out into the community quicker. That’s our SD&G hospitals. So, that’s kind of the compensation that’s been going on to ensure the public safety while we’re on strike.”

Cornwall-SDG EMS did respond to Prescott bus crash

Lister says Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services did send an ambulance to the scene of the tour bus crash near Prescott on Monday (June 4).

The chief says the call was handled by Kingston and ambulances were pulled from all over the region – including SD&G – under Ministry of Health regulations. The regulations dictate that the closest ambulance respond to a call regardless of its location, jurisdiction or labour climate.

“We did send one ambulance from Cornwall to Prescott. We did transport one patient,” Lister said. There were around 35 patients transported that day.

“To say that that car (SD&G ambulance) caused somebody else to wait in SD&G, I don’t have any evidence of that at all,” he said. “So it’s not uncommon to have an SD&G vehicle respond to a call that’s not in SD&G, even during the strike,” he said.

Lister added there have been times where Cornwall-SDG EMS has responded to calls in Osgoode for the Ottawa Paramedic Service and vice versa during the strike.

“It’s a revolving circle of ambulances that are unavailable and ambulances that are available,” Lister said.

Both the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Ministry of Health were contacted by Cornwall Newswatch for this story. Both deferred comment to Lister.

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