By Chad Ingram
Published July 27 2016
Eight times in the first six months of2016 there were zero ambulances available in Haliburton County thoseincidents equating to a total of 12 hours.
EMS director and paramedic chief CraigJones delivered that news to county council as he presented a reportof call volumes for the first half of the year during a July 27meeting.
“It's difficult to call people in atnight” Jones said. “It's a balancing act it's a struggle.”
Algonquin Highlands Reeve andHaliburton County Warden Carol Moffatt wondered where the tippingpoint was how long it would be before the municipality would have toincrease the number of manned ambulances available.
“In reality how far away is that forus?” Moffatt asked.
Jones said it was difficult to providean exact time frame and that while obviously the ideal situation is tonever be without an available ambulance “that's a perfect worldand no one can do that. It's a balance of risk mitigation.”
The county has one 24-hour and one12-hour ambulance stationed at its base in Haliburton village one24-hour ambulance at its Minden base and one 12-hour ambulance at itsbase in Tory Hill.
“Call volumes continue to rise”Jones said explaining they were up seven per cent over 2015 and haverisen nearly 16 per cent since 2014.
Seventy-five per cent of patients areover the age of 60 and the most common type of call is for falls.
So far this year the Haliburton basehas handled more than twice as many calls as either the Minden orTory Hill bases which Jones pointed out is because the Haliburtonbase is equipped with twice as many ambulances.
During the first six months of 2016the Haliburton base received 1723 calls the Minden base 781 and theTory Hills base 535.
Meeting and exceeding response timetargets is more easily achieved in Minden Hills and Dysart et altownships due the presence of bases and that those townships are moredensely populated than Highlands East and Algonquin Highlands.
In Algonquin Highlands response timestargets are not being met in any category.
“Geography and availability ofresources to this area are the primary reasons” Jones's reportread.
Moffatt asked what could be done tomeet targets in Algonquin Highlands and Jones responded that having a24-hour ambulance stationed in the township would really be the onlyway.
The average response time in AlgonquinHighlands is 17 minutes and 34 seconds. The average for HighlandsEast is 16 minutes 32 seconds; for Minden Hills 10 minutes 32seconds; and for Dysart et al eight minutes and 48 seconds.
Overall for the county 40 per cent ofthe time paramedics are getting to patients within eight minutes.
Under the department's deployment planJones said the number of non-urgent transfers out the county havebeen reduced.
“Some of those transfers can takethree hours” he said.
Due to the lack of certain services atthe county's hospitals some patients must be transferred out of thecounty to locations such as Lindsay Peterborough and sometimesToronto.
While the number of calls Haliburtonparamedics have responded to outside county borders has fallen to 124versus 150 after the first six months of 2015 the number of callsinside the county being handled by other EMS providers has risen from132 to 150.
An issue with call prioritization thatJones said many Ontario paramedic chiefs are advocating to havechanged deals with the classification of Code 4 calls. Code 4 callsare life-threatening emergencies. Many of them don't turn out to belife-threatening emergencies however but once an ambulance isassigned to a Code 4 call it cannot be reassigned.
“Of our 1131 patient-carryingcalls 56 per cent of them were dispatched as a life-threateningemergency Code 4” Jones's report reads. “In alarming contrastwe only returned on a Code 4 14 per cent of the time. Theprovincially developed dispatch tool 'over prioritizes' calls. Thisnegatively affects the availability of resources to respond as oncean ambulance is assigned to a Code 4 it cannot be reassigned. If thetool over prioritized less it would allow for the more efficient andmedically appropriate allocation of the county's ambulances.”
Councillors resolved to send acorrespondence to the province regarding the Code 4 issue.