The union representing a majority of Ontario paramedics released a report today, detailing rising call volume and ambulance shortages in 22 regions. CUPE submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in all municipalities where it represents paramedics and dispatchers, in order to track “code zeros” – times when no ambulance is available to respond to emergency calls.

“The resulting statistical portrait is cause for deep concern,” said researcher Chandra Pasma.

In “Under Pressure: A Statistical Report on Paramedic Services in Ontario,” Pasma found that the twin pressures of increasing call volume and offload delays (times when medics must wait to transfer patients to hospital care) are causing ambulance shortages, high overtime costs, and workload concerns.

“CUPE paramedics and dispatchers have been sounding the alarm for years about unsustainable pressure on the system,” said Pasma. Put simply, the data shows their concerns are well-founded. Rising call volume, an aging population, and the failure to meet growing demand with additional resources all lead to periods of time when ambulances and paramedics are simply not available. Without concrete steps to address these pressures the system will continue to be in crisis.”

Pasma added, “Not only is total call volume rising, but the greatest increases involve calls requiring the most urgent response. These are life-and-death calls, calls that generate lights and sirens. I am confident concluding that there will be a code zero related tragedy at some point in Ontario, if there hasn’t been one already.”

“The research bears out what medics have been saying on the ground for many years. There simply aren’t enough ambulances and paramedics to meet rising demand. Overtime costs and workplace illness and injury are rising alongside demand. It is reasonable for people to wonder whether an ambulance will be available when they need one,” said Jason Fraser, who chairs the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario, representing 5,500 paramedics and dispatchers.

“This crisis in emergency medical services reflects government cuts throughout the healthcare system,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “It is compounded by cuts to hospitals and public health funding. The provincial government and municipal governments need to step up and provide the funding and leadership required to ensure communities have the services they need and deserve.”

The full report can be found at: