London, Middlesex set to lobby provincial government on EMS issues

A Middlesex-London Paramedic Service sits parked inside the MLPS headquarters in south London, Ont. Andrew Graham / Global News

London’s city council, along with Middlesex County, have pledged to lobby the Ontario government for control over 911 dispatch centres, as well as ask for help with reducing quickly-rising ambulance off-load times.

Bill Rayburn, chief administrative officer (CAO) for the county, made a presentation to the strategic priorities and policy committee Tuesday afternoon.

He said that in the 25 years he’s been responsible for the region’s land ambulance service, he’s never seen pressures like this.

“I’m ringing the alarm bells here. And I’m ringing the alarm bells at my county council table as well, about the pressures we’re seeing in the system and around the system,” he said.

“The crazy thing about the risks and pressures that we’re facing is that many of them aren’t in the control of the people in this room. They’re not in my control. They’re not in county council’s control, they’re external.”

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Rayburn explained that not only has call volume has gone up, but so too has call complexity. He said that because of challenges around mental health and drug addiction, calls take more time and effort than ever before.

“When I was a kid, somebody broke their arm, you call an ambulance to go to the hospital. That’s a very rare event now compared to the complexity and the time it takes to deal with each individual call.”

As a result, calls are being over-triaged, and paramedics only return to the hospital with a critical patient around four per cent of the time.

While increased call volume and complexity are both worrying, Rayburn highlighted a bigger issue: offload delays.

“What we’re seeing is that we’re either at the bottom or near the bottom, in offload delays in the province, this is something that we can’t sustain, it has to be fixed.”

Offload delays have increased over 200 per cent since 2021, and the Middlesex London Paramedic Service (MLPS) has lost 26,362 hours to offload delays.

According to Rayburn, over 50 per cent of all patients brought to an emergency department are immediately going into offload delay, causing ambulances to be held up at hospitals.

However, Rayburn says that if the county was given local control of dispatch, solutions could be implemented to mitigate these issues.

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“We have to get control of dispatch, because all the things that were asked about in terms of solutions are all contingent upon being able to make sure that we can implement those solutions through the use of dispatch.”

The county has spoken with the premier about having local control of 911 dispatch, and is now waiting on the Ministry of Health to approve their proposal. Rayburn says they’ll be meeting with hospitals in the region to discuss potential solutions they could bring to the province.

“You’ve been heard, we need to do a better job of advocating,” said Ward 7 Coun. Corrine Rahman. “But we’re at such a critical point that I think we also need to inspire our residents to actually take a pen and paper, send those emails and reach out and start advocating because these pressures are entirely solvable through the province.”

A motion put forward by Ward 13 Coun. David Ferreira to have the city formally commit to advocating along with Middlesex County on the issues Rayburn presented passed unanimously.

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