‘Minutes count in a medical emergency. You want an ambulance as quickly as possible to take you where you need to go as soon as possible.’ - Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Winnipeg has seen ambulance response times to life-threatening emergencies grow and are now on average six minutes longer than the city's nine-minute response target. While response times by Fire-Paramedics do fall within the nine-minute target, they are unable to transport patients to hospitals.(1)
Meeting the city’s response time target is important for patient outcomes. For heart attack, stroke and trauma patients, minutes count. You want an ambulance as quickly as possible, to take you where you need to go as soon as possible.
As Mayor, one of my priorities would be the hiring of paramedics and putting more ambulances on the road.
A New Service-Funding Agreement
Since 1997 the province has been responsible for ambulances, entering into a service-funding arrangement with the city to provide paramedic services. This service-funding agreement expired in 2017 and, since then, the province has provided funding through annual funding letters. However, this funding has not kept up with increased demand and rising cost.
Since 2017, the city has had little certainty in funding and has had to scrape by to provide this essential service to Winnipeggers, a service which, ultimately, falls under provincial responsibility.
The City and Province have been working on an agreement, but repeated delays have made it long overdue. And this close to the municipal election any proposed agreement should be reviewed by the new Mayor and council.
We will work with the province to put in place a new service-funding agreement for paramedic services that reflected the increased demand and rising costs faced by the city.
Paramedic Services Review
As Mayor I will work with council to review how paramedics are organised within the city’s Fire Paramedic Service, recognising paramedics are an important part of the emergency response team, and play a unique role in the framework of health care.
This review would look at establishing a Winnipeg Paramedic Service, something common in other major cities, to determine if a focused mandate and dedicated management structure would benefit Winnipeg in the provision of paramedic services. Appropriate staffing levels, deployment strategies, ambulance supply and maintenance would all be included in the review.
Expanding Emergency Paramedics in the Community (EPIC)
As a way of helping to relieve more non-emergency pressure on the city’s emergency services, the city should look at adding more Community Paramedics through the EPIC program.(2) A program that sees paramedics reaching out and meeting people in the community in a proactive way.
Emergency services know who the frequent 911 callers are and through the EPIC program work to determine what resources may be available to help them, diverting them away from emergency services to more appropriate community health resources.
Community Paramedics act as a pressure release valve for emergency services. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we need to strengthen this program.