News Provincial

Renfrew County upset with Ottawa downloading ambulance services onto them.

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

County of Renfrew Paramedic Service Chief MIke Nolan

County of Renfrew Paramedic Service Chief MIke Nolan

Renfrew County is upset over how the city of Ottawa seems to be downloading ambulance emergency calls onto their rural neighbours.

During Wednesday's meeting of the county's health committee, Michael Nolan, the emergency services director and the chief of the county paramedic service, said Ottawa has advised the county it will not be renewing the intermunicipal billing agreement it has with them, which means the city won't be compensating the county for the cost of responding to emergency calls.

He said he has been in discussions with the emergency service chiefs from paramedic services bordering Ottawa, including Prescott Russell, Cornwall, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and Lanark County, to figure out what their collective response to this will be to this decision.

All of these border municipalities provide ambulance service when called upon to the outer edges of Ottawa; in 2015 alone, this amounted to around 1,600 calls.

“This decision impacts resources and finances for the County of Renfrew,” Nolan said, as their paramedics have answered emergency calls from the rural areas of Ottawa.

“What is happening is they are pushing their responsibilities onto us and our rural neighbours,” he said.

Nolan said it appears the city is taking advantage of a Ministry of Health rule which states the closest available paramedic will respond to an emergency call to help. He said this is a good system as everyone who is in distress should expect the fastest response possible, no matter where they are or where the responder is located.

“If everyone plays ball, this works well,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is falling apart with Ottawa.”

Nolan said what has happened is the city is redeploying its paramedics to prioritize its urban environment over the rural demands for service. He said the city has every right to do so, as all municipalities must figure out the best way to use limited resources.

However, Ottawa is also relying on its rural neighbours to fill the gaps in service, while deciding not to compensate them financially for this usage by not renewing billing agreement.

“Ottawa's shift in internal priorities has forced the County of Renfrew to subsidize its rural areas with paramedic services, and consequently reduce the level of service to Renfrew County itself,” Nolan said. “We have attempted to work with Ottawa to address this issue, and have received notice that they will not be entering into discussions with their neighbours.”

Warden Peter Emon is angry about this development, saying in effect Ottawa is downloading the care of its rural citizens onto their municipal neighbours.

“What we have is the rural municipalities subsidizing the city of Ottawa,” he said, which isn't the best use of the investment into their paramedic service. The warden said it puts the county in a fix as well, as answering calls in the Ottawa area would leave the county thinning out its own coverage, which increased their liability as well.

Emon said the county will be documenting the times their paramedics respond to Ottawa calls, while consulting with the other municipalities bordering the city. Once armed with more solid information, they will collectively approach Ottawa to try and work out a solution.

Nolan said this is the approach he is taking with his peers in other municipalities, stating they need a coordinated approach “to tackle the elephant.”

“This is something that affects us all,” he said, adding a report on this matter and possible courses of action will be drafted and presented to county councillors soon.

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