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With a shortage of funding, the Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) is struggling to maintain its service for land ambulance calls.
With non-emergent patient transfers taking up a large portion of time for Northwest EMS paramedics, critical service is suffering to patients.
With limited staff on hand at the smaller bases in the area, non-emergent patient transfers take up a lot of the paramedics’ time. Some examples are transfers of patients to area hospitals for tests, transfer to air ambulance, and transfers of senior patients from assisted living units to the hospital for tests and treatment.
There is also an ongoing complication of patients needing a transfer from Kenora to Winnipeg hospitals, or Sioux Lookout area to Thunder Bay hospitals.
“In our particular district, we believe there is an opportunity for someone or some organization with the Ministry to deal with this issue,” says KDSB Chief Administrative Officer, Sten Lif. “However, because it is a provincial issue, I don’t think the Ministry has any, shall we say, desire, to deal with this particular issue.”
Lif says the problem is working its way up the chain to the Ministry, and KDSB holds membership on the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association (NOSDA) who has sent a letter to Premiere Dalton McGinty on the matter.
The letter outlines a resolution made by NOSDA, which reads, “Whereas the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association (NOSDA) is very concerned about the escalating use of land ambulance vehicles and highly trained personnel for inter-facility transfers of non-emergency patients which is not a mandated service under the Ambulance Act.”
“Whereas the use of land ambulance services by the medical community as a means to transfer non-emergency patients has created serious response time problems for DDA’s in providing emergency service coverage.”
The letter goes on to explain that even after commissioning studies, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has failed to put forth any solutions to the problems.
NOSDA has asked the province to place a high priority on resolving the issue by creating a task force to provide recommendations to the Minister.
“This issue is more acute in our end of the province in northern Ontario because of the great distances in between communities and the fact that there is a small population involved,” says Lif.
Lif says KDSB has taken some steps to change the procedures within the area, to attempt to alleviate some of the pressure to the paramedics. Medical facilities are being asked to call ahead approximately 24 to 48 hours for transfers locally, which enables staff to plan for transfers more effectively.
By Ally Dunham