Incidents of down-staffing ambulances, where a paramedics’ shift is not staffed, are becoming the norm for Peterborough County-City Paramedic Services (PCCP).
Downstaffing, exacerbated by long offload delays at the hospital, has led to fewer ambulances on the road than is required, and situations where paramedic crews are forced into overtime at the end of their shift, as they can’t leave the hospital without handing over care to the emergency room. Already, a weekend in June saw several paramedics stay on shift for 16 hours (maximum allowed) to cover unstaffed ambulances.
This has created a dangerous precedent for our community, leaving those in dire circumstances with longer wait times to be picked up and taken to a hospital. The closest ambulance will always be sent, however that ambulance may be an out of County one with a long response time. City of Kawartha Lakes EMS and Northumberland EMS vehicles can often be seen at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre.
“The paramedics sector across Ontario is facing a staffing crisis in healthcare,” Natalie Waters, President of CUPE 4911 and a frontline paramedic said. “CUPE 4911 is calling on Peterborough Paramedics to improve working conditions to make Peterborough a desirable destination for new recruits. With a staffing shortfall across the province, Peterborough County will need to improve working conditions for paramedics, not make them worse.”
In a report analyzing the operations of Peterborough County-City Paramedics Services, given to Peterborough County Council on June 7, time spent at the hospital for our community’s urgent calls has increased from just over 33 minutes in 2020 to over 42 minutes in 2022.
“The Peterborough County-City Paramedic Services relies on part-time paramedics to keep the service functioning,” Waters said, “and the majority of Peterborough County-City paramedics that work part-time also work for other services. They are in high demand, so we need to give them a reason to choose Peterborough.”
In 2021, call volumes jumped by 12.8% in Peterborough County. The demand for paramedics’ services across Ontario rose an average of 4% annually between 2010 and 2019.