City wants answers on paramedic service
Pembroke city council wants to hear about the state of Renfrew County's ambulance system.
In particular, council members want details on why ambulances are being sent outside of the county, and if this leaves local residents at risk.
During Tuesday's council meeting, Coun. Les Scott said he has heard reports that up to six ambulances were dispatched to Ottawa over the weekend, explaining the idea of reduced ambulance coverage fills him with great concern.
“Are we still covered? What will we do in the event of an emergency? What did this cost us? I'd like to know,” he said. Scott then asked if council would extend an invitation to Mike Nolan, the chief of the county's paramedics, to appear before council to explain what is going on.
Mayor Michael LeMay agreed, and said this will be an opportunity to get his concerns addressed as well. He said the city will get in contact with Nolan to have him appear before council as soon as possible.
Under Ontario law, if an ambulance isn't available within a municipality for an emergency call, the next closest one must respond, no matter where they are based.
In recent years, the City of Ottawa has been placing a heavy reliance on neighbouring counties such as Lanark and Renfrew to handle rural calls within the city's boundaries. Ottawa’s deployment plans focus on its urban core as opposed to the rural, outlying areas within its boundaries, counting on its rural neighbours to pick up the slack.
Some people have accused Ottawa of saving money by shifting the burden onto its rural neighbours. Adding fuel to the fire is Ottawa's refusal to pay for the cost of rural ambulances traveling up to 100 km or more to answer a call in the big city.
After much bickering, a tentative deal was struck last fall in which 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.
Ottawa refused to sign it, but the rural services have indicated they will be following this policy whether or not the city signs on.
In the meantime, Renfrew and Lanark County ambulances are ready
to respond to 911 calls from the edges of Ottawa, as there are no available ambulances from the city's core.