Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch Calls on Ford to Solve ‘Critical Ambulance and EMS Shortages’ in Niagara

“Niagara families deserve to know that if they need emergency medical services, it will be available to them. Right now in Niagara, there aren’t enough ambulances or paramedics to help people experiencing medical emergencies.”                                            – Jeff Burch, NDP MPP for the Niagara, Ontario Riding of Niagara Centre

A News Release from the Constituency Office of Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch

Posted November 30th, 2021 on Niagara At Large

Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch

Niagara, Ontario – As Niagara Region faces a critical shortage in ambulance and EMS services, MPP Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) called on Doug Ford to take action and make sure families in Niagara can access the timely care they need.

“Niagara families deserve to know that if they need emergency medical services, it will be available to them,” said Burch.

“Right now in Niagara, there aren’t enough ambulances or paramedics to help people experiencing medical emergencies. Families should not have to face the anguish of waiting for long periods of time by their sick or injured loved ones, wondering when the ambulance will finally arrive.”

Niagara Region Public Health and Social Services Committee has said the current situation is critical. There are often not enough ambulances to provide emergency coverage for all of Niagara, or to meet response times for critical patients. CUPE 911, the union that represents Niagara paramedics, state that they are understaffed, under-resourced and burnt-out as the demand for emergency services continues to rise.

“Ford is refusing to help while the people of Niagara are laying on stretchers or waiting anxiously for an ambulance to arrive,” Burch said. “Niagara families need their government to hire more paramedics and dispatchers, not to continue to ignore the problem.

The shortage of EMS workers and ambulances in Niagara is further aggravated by overcrowded hospitals. In the last seven months, nearly 350 patients in Niagara were left stranded for four to six hours due to ambulance off-load delays. Sixty-three people spent more than six hours on EMS stretchers waiting for a bed.

To read an exchange in the Provincial Legislature this November 30th between Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch and Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Health Minister Christine Elliott on this issue, here is the transcript –

Mr. Jeff Burch: Thank you, Speaker. Through you to the Minister of Health: Niagara is experiencing a crisis with EMS services. Members from the Niagara region emergency medical service are expressing grave concern that they are understaffed, under-resourced and burnt out as demand for emergency services continues to rise.

Joe Brunarski, President of CUPE 911 and an active paramedic, stated, “Patients who call 911 frequently have to wait for long durations to have us show up their doorstep, because there are no ambulances available.”

The Niagara region Public Health and Social Services Committee has stated that the current situation has reached a critical state. It has been reported that there are often not enough ambulances to provide emergency coverage for all of Niagara and to meet response times for critical patients.

Will this government support paramedics in their work and commit today to hiring more full-time paramedics, more full-time dispatchers and ensure that when the people of Niagara call 911 they get the timely care that they deserve?

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you to the member for the question. It is very important that the people across the province of Ontario receive timely access to medical care through ambulance services, and we really appreciate the work that paramedics have been doing. We know that health human resources are stressed right now. That’s why we’re putting more money—hundreds of millions of dollars—into training for more nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers and paramedics.

Right now we have community paramedics who are working in health as well as in long-term care to make sure that seniors who are at home are going to be able to be supported if they’re waiting for a long-term care space or if they want to remain in their home with the supports that they need around them. We are providing those paramedic services and we are working to integrate that with the work that health is doing to provide the nursing and other services that people might need.

The work is continuing and we will make sure that everyone, including in Niagara, receives the services that they need in a timely manner.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Jeff Burch: In the last seven months, nearly 350 patients in Niagara were left stranded for four to six hours due to offload delays; 63 people spent more than six hours on EMS stretchers because there simply are not enough hospital beds. While the people of this province are laying on stretchers, this government spent nearly half a billion dollars less on health care than it originally planned. The money was available; this government chose not to use it.

The Premier needs to explain to the people of Niagara why he chose not to spend on health care while our family members are stuck on EMS stretchers.

Will the Minister commit today to fix the Niagara 911 crisis?

Hon. Christine Elliott: Well, I believe I answered the first part of your question in my earlier response, but I think it’s also really important to concentrate on what the actual situation is with health care spending. As we announced in the fall economic statement, our government has invested an additional $5.1 billion this year and allocated an additional $5.2 billion next year in dedicated COVID-19 health funding.

The Financial Accountability Office, which is what I expect that you’re referring to, reports on a quarterly basis the spending variances between planned and actual at a point in time, so, while the spending may not have happened in Q2, a lot of the spending is already happening now and will be reported later, because the FAOs point-in-time figures do not necessarily reflect the government’s overall spending plan.

What I can say is that the $974 million in lower-than-expected spending is going to be caught up as we move towards the end of the year because of the timing of when—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.

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“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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