Provincial funding aims to address ambulance offload delay in Peterborough

Peterborough County-City Paramedics will receive $8,701,551 in funding from the provincial government to support the hiring of additional paramedics, wage and cost of living adjustments and ambulance services operation to meet the needs of community members, Peterborough—Kawartha MPP Dave Smith announced Friday.

“This year’s funding is $8.7 million. Previous years were slightly lower than that. It’s an increase this year of between $400,000 and $500,000,” Smith told reporters at the Peterborough County-City Paramedics Clonsilla Station.

The funding is part of Ontario’s $764 million Land Ambulance Service Grant funding for municipalities facing increased cost pressures in their hospital emergency departments.

Peterborough County-City Paramedics Chief Randy Mellow said the funding will go a long way to help stabilize and expand paramedic services in the city and county.

“(The funding) is providing relief to both pressures of ambulance offload delay as well as the significant increase in call volumes. It’s going to provide some relief while we’re able to introduce new things like new models of care,” Mellow said.

Peterborough County is receiving $450,683 to help address what Mellow called the “systematic” issue of ambulance offload delays — a problem Peterborough Regional Health Centre has grappled with for years.

The provincial government is providing $16.1 million to 20 communities to hire additional nurses and health care workers, including paramedics, respiratory therapists and physician assistants, dedicated to offloading ambulance patients to receive care in emergency departments.

“Too often, ambulances are stuck at PRHC caring for patients when they should be out on service calls throughout the community,” Smith said. “This funding will help ensure that Peterborough Paramedics are where they belong, helping those who need it, when they need it,” he continued.

Mellow said ambulance offload delay, which has increased in recent years, is a “symptom of a systematic issue. It has increased over the last few years as we’ve seen significant increased demand for both walk-in patients to the ER as well as those transported by ambulance. We’re also seeing staff pressures and complex chronic issues as our population becomes more elderly.”

“This is a problem that’s been with us for so long,” said Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones. “All these years later we’re still talking about offload delay. But now we’re seeing a little break in the clouds. It’s extremely important that this new way of doing things continues down the road.”

Smith also announced the expansion of 911 models of care in the city and county to give paramedics more flexibility to provide efficient and effective patient-centred care away from emergency rooms.

On the heels of the government’s first phase of the program, which focused on “treat and refer” models for mental health and addictions and palliative care patients, this expansion will include a new model type dubbed “treat and release.”

The model will see patients treated on-scene by paramedics and released with recommendations for appropriate followup care. The model’s aim is to help avoid unnecessary trips to emergency departments and preserve hospital beds for individuals most in need.

“This model works. It means people can be treated at home or on-site … this reduces the pressure on our emergency room at PRHC,” Smith said.

While the new model will take some time to be put in place as protocols are developed, Mellow said he expects the county-wide approach to be rolled out within the next year.

“Peterborough County-City Paramedics were pleased to implement the palliative care protocols in Peterborough under the first phase of new models of care and we look forward to expanding the models under Phase 2,” Mellow said.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner