Ontario sends $29 million ambulance grant amid healthcare service challenges to Oshawa, Pickering and rest of Durham

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Published October 5, 2022 at 7:37 pm

Durham Region will receive $29.3 million to cover half the cost of operating land ambulances via an Ontario-wide Land Ambulance Services Grant (LASG).

The Ontario government announced the funding top-up from Whitby yesterday, saying the province as a whole will see $764 million in funding.

More than $29,275,ooo of those dollars are coming to Durham to help pay for hiring new paramedics, wage adjustments for the cost of living and general ambulance services.

As of September 12, the average salary for a paramedic in Ontario sits around $32/h, according to Indeed. For comparison, a police constable, who would respond to an emergency alongside EMS, makes on average $126,131 per year or around $65/h, according to Glassdoor.

The LASG covers half of a municipalities expenses to run its ambulance services. The government touts this as part of its “commitment to building a modern, sustainable and connected emergency health system.”

The funds are greatly needed in Durham by all accounts. Durham Paramedics reported numerous “Code Zero” instances over the last year, during which no ambulances were available.

Many of these Code Zeroes are due to problems offloading patients. Ever-rising hospital admission wait-times keep paramedics in emergency departments instead of on the road to keep an eye on the patients.

Average admission wait times hit a summer peak of nearly 32 hours back in July, prompting patients to describe the waiting room as “like a war zone.” Additionally Ajax and Bowmanville hospitals have likewise seen major delays. Bowmanville hospital also had to temporarily shutter its intensive care unit for several weeks.

These service issues are in large part due to a staffing shortage gripping the province. This crisis is only expected to worsen over the coming years with nearly a quarter of nurses, 16 per cent of PSWs and 11 per cent of doctors planning to leave their jobs in three years, per Statistics Canada.

Opposition parties and the Ontario Nurses Association have long called for the repeal of Bill 124, which caps healthcare worker salaries, as an effort to compensate nurses more and encourage them to remain in the field.

However Health  Sylvia Jones said the repeal remain “a conversation for another day” back in August.

The Ontario Government’s recent step to decrease wait time, Bill 7, has also come under heavy fire in recent weeks. The controversial bill authorizes hospitals to force elderly patients to move to long term care (LTC) homes for treatment. These homes can be far away from the patients communities and families and patients are subject to fines should they refuse to leave hospital.

These issues and others have contributed to a recent Angus Reid poll that found 4 in 5 respondents felt the Ford Government is mishandling the health care portfolio.

The MPPs on hand to announce the LASG painted a sunnier picture of the current healthcare landscape and ambulance access during their announcement.

“This funding is part of the government’s commitment to building a modern, sustainable and connected emergency health system that supports every Ontarian on their health care journey,” the MPPs said in a press release. “supports the government’s [plan] to ease pressures on our health care system, hire more health care workers and providing the right care in the right place to Ontarians.”

“We have listened to the concerns of The Region of Durham about land ambulance services and we have responded,” said Pickering-Uxbridge MPP and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy.

Whitby MPP Lorne Coe said, “This funding which supports ambulance operations is yet another way the government is ensuring Region of Durham residents can receive emergency health services they need, when they need it.”

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