Peterborough City/County Paramedics continue to face “significant unprecedented pressures,” mostly due to extensive off-loading delays of patients by ambulance paramedics at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Chief Randy Mellow said at Wednesday’s Peterborough County council meeting.
“It’s the biggest burden on our system that we’ve seen in my history with the service. It has become much, much more significant,” Mellow said.
County council approved the addition of an extra ambulance to the paramedics squad for the remainder of 2022 to help mitigate the situation.
“I can’t say enough that it’s not a PRHC problem. It’s a health-care system problem everywhere in the province and, in fact, the nation,” Mellow said.
When an ambulance arrives with a patient at the hospital, its two paramedics and the ambulance must stay until the patient is handed off or “off-loaded” to the hospital. This can tie them up for hours.
In December, an extra ambulance was added to the paramedics squad to cope with pandemic pressures and delayed off-loading, but its funding ends June 30.
Mellow was at the meeting to ask for another $280,000, this time from the department’s shared reserve, which council approved.
Call volumes, response times and off-loading delays continue to increase, Mellow said, with an unprecedented 10 per cent rise in calls from January to May this year.
“The other key piece to point out to council is … what I call the zero ambulance availability rate. That’s where the number of calls coming in simultaneously is larger than the number of ambulances we have on the road,” Mellow said.
“Even with (the extra ambulance) in place, we have seen a significant increase in those number of hours (in 2022). Had it not been in place, we would have had 41 hours so far in that time period where demand exceeded resources.”
Mellow said if the service does not have an additional ambulance for the rest of the year, “we will continue to see significant risk.”
He said the department is working with the hospital to find programming to expedite off-loading.
Otonabee-South Monaghan Township Mayor Joe Taylor told council he recently had to call an ambulance for his mother. It waited four hours at the hospital on a busy night until she was received.
“Those two paramedics had to sit there. They had no choice, and that’s when I thought ‘my goodness. This is ridiculous.’”
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner