Paramedics taking patient on stretcher from ambulance to hospital

The Ontario provincial government needs to take decisive action and fund the solutions that will alleviate the ongoing crisis of ambulance shortages in Essex County, says CUPE 2974.

“As paramedics, we have been struggling to serve our communities in Essex County, due to chronic understaffing and persistent offload delays,” said James Jovanovic, an active paramedic and president of CUPE 2974, the union that represents nearly 300 paramedics in Essex County. “We are encouraged that Essex County has acknowledged the problem and declared an emergency. Now it’s time for action, and the province must play a lead role in supporting paramedics.”

Like other municipalities, Essex County splits the funding for paramedic services with the provincial government but hospitals are funded by the province. The lack of hospital capacity is the province’s responsibility - but municipalities are left to deal with ambulance shortages resulting from insufficient capacity.

As municipal paramedic services have been increasingly burdened by offload delays due to hospital staffing shortages and lack of capacity, CUPE 2974 wants the province to fully fund the costs associated with offload delays.

“There are three primary solutions: more paramedics, more hospital staff and more hospital capacity,” Jovanovic said. “If the province compensates the County for offload delays, that funding can be used for more paramedics and ambulances. Meanwhile, the province must also improve hospital staffing levels, and capacity to reduce offload delays.”

Jovanovic pointed out that Ontario has the worst hospital capacity per-capita across Canada and is tied with Mexico in having the lowest number of hospital beds per-capita among countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Since 2008, Ontario has also had the lowest per-capita health care funding across Canada.

“As a paramedic, I have been seeing offload delays for over 14 years. The truth is, we have been underfunding healthcare in this province for a long time. It’s time to prioritize investments in our system, over short-term savings. The people of this province deserve better,” he said.