Ambulance response times to life-threatening calls in Winnipeg are well above the target time.
“We’ve seen those incrementally increase over the last number of years,” said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) Chief Christian Schmidt on Friday.
Schmidt said the service is responding to medical calls within the nine-minute benchmark. But that is only because fire trucks are also rolled out to answer the bell.
He said ambulances, which actually transport patients to hospital, are taking up to 15 minutes to respond, six minutes longer than the desired time.
“When we have situations where we go into a weekend where we have one or zero physical ambulances available as spares to put in service, that’s very concerning.” Said Schmidt Schmidt and Councillor Sherri Rollins, who chairs the protection committee, said the service is short-staffed and short on actual ambulances.
“We’re missing not only the equipment, the ambulances themselves and we need 11, but also the staffing,” said Rollins.
The province pays for ambulance services, which the city provides. The two sides have been without an agreement for five years. In March, a city report said a contract was being reviewed by both parties.
“What I’ve been pushing for is let’s get a contract and let’s make sure it’s crystal clear the level of service that you want and they should be accountable for that level of service,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.
In a statement, Shared Health Manitoba said it is working towards a contract and says provisions have been put in place to curb longer response times.
“This includes a recent change in ambulance transport protocols, which send appropriate lower-acuity patients to urgent care centres rather than emergency departments, and elimination of ambulance redirections,” the statement said. “These recent changes ease patient flow challenges at acute care facilities, improve patient safety and positively impact ERS.
“Other measures implemented in partnership with the WFPS include providing a second level of detailed triage by EPIC paramedics for lower-acuity 911 callers and renewed focus on transfer of care procedures to minimize the time ambulances remain at hospital.”
Chief Schmidt said fire crews are meeting proper response times, but because they have to cover off for ambulances, and wait, it means those fire trucks can’t be sent to a nearby blaze.
“We have to dispatch a unit from a further station in order to respond as the first in the crew,” said Schmidt.
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