Renfrew County Chief believes Ottawa paramedic deal still in place
The already challenging work of paramedic first responders is made much worse when standing waist deep in a swamp, as discovered by paramedics going through a two-day training session in the wilderness near Quadeville at the end of September.
A deal with the City of Ottawa setting out the rules for cross-border deployment of paramedic services from neighbouring counties is still in place, according to Renfrew County's director of emergency services.
Despite hearing media accounts from Ottawa that the agreement will not be signed, Renfrew County chief paramedic Mike Nolan says that until he has been officially notified to the contrary the deal goes through.
Under the tentative deal, paramedics from Renfrew County, Prescott-Russell and Cornwall will only respond to calls from Ottawa if patients are in cardiac arrest or unconscious. In the event of a major emergency, Ottawa paramedics will have to call the other services directly to request backup. It will be up to those services to decide whether they can spare the resources to assist.
However, on Thursday Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency of protective services for the City of Ottawa, told city council the city will not consider the agreement. For his part, Nolan said the deal isn't dead until he receives a phone call from Ottawa paramedic chief Myles Cassidy.
“Regardless of what was said I will be forwarding our copy of the signed agreement to the City of Ottawa because formally I have received no correspondence from the City of Ottawa,” said Nolan who was only aware of the matter after being contacted by a CBC reporter. “I have only heard through the media that there is not an appetite.”
Nolan said the deal was to dramatically reduce the number of times Renfrew County paramedics respond to calls from Ottawa. Last year the number of calls was 370. The chief said he was perplexed by the news.
“Ottawa was the originator of this agreement and sent it out to all its neighbouring municipalities,” he said.
On Wednesday, Renfrew County council endorsed the agreement and the changes to the paramedic ambulance deployment plan which Nolan will now send off to the province so they can implement the new criteria. At the end of the day, he believes Ottawa should stick to the plan.
“The City of Ottawa is play games with the lives of residents of eastern Ontario and we would appreciate them honouring the agreement that they were a party to creating,” said Nolan.
Until earlier this year, Ottawa had placed heavy reliance on neighbouring counties to handle rural calls within the city's boundaries. The city’s deployment plans focus on its urban core as opposed to the rural, outlying areas within its periphery. As a result, call volumes from Renfrew County increased by 41 per cent. Furthermore, the city refused to reimburse its neighbours for services rendered. In March, The Ministry of Health has directed Ottawa paramedics to change their dispatch practices.