January 30, 2018 3:58 pm
Updated: January 30, 2018 7:00 pm

Hamilton’s ‘code zero’ ambulance shortages hit five-year-high in January

Improved movement of patients within hospitals is getting the credit for fewer Code Zero events in Hamilton.

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City of Hamilton data shows paramedics are struggling now more than ever to keep up with the number of emergency calls.

In January, ​there have been 31 situations where one or no ambulance was available to respond to an emergency — known as a code zero. It was the highest monthly level in five years.

READ MORE: Paramedic burnout and Code Zero events prompt OPSEU to renew call for more resources

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says while accompanying a friend to Hamilton General Hospital this week, he witnessed the backlog.

“It’s now the new normal to have five, six or seven ambulances tied up for hours at a time, sitting at the hospital doing absolutely nothing when they should be out on the road ready to deal with critical emergencies, which is really their main purpose” he said.

On Monday, Eisenberger said he observed eight ambulances and 16 paramedics waiting to offload patients over a six-hour period.

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The city’s numbers to date show there have been 600 ambulance-offload delays that lasted more than two hours, including 40 on Monday.

After speaking with patients and paramedics, Eisenberger said he would like to hold a summit to address the delays, citing a multitude of contributing factors, from the need for more long term-care beds to provincial legislation that would give paramedics the power to determine where a patient should go for care.

LISTEN: Mayor Fred Eisenberger joins The Bill Kelly Show

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“There are a number of patients that they’re bringing in there, by their own admission that don’t need to be in emergency, that could be in an urgent care facility,” he said.

Mario Posteraro, president of  OPSEU Local 256, which represents ambulance workers, said he agrees the province could step up, but added that so could the city.

“With respect to enhancing front line service that falls squarely on the shoulders of city council and that hasn’t happened to the sufficient volume it should,” he said pointing to a five-per-cent increase in calls per year.

Posteraro said he’s glad the mayor had an “eye witness wake-up call,” but questions whether or not council has been listening to OPSEU and the paramedics who have been raising the issue for years.

LISTEN: Mario Posteraro joins The Bill Kelly Show

View link »

READ MORE: Ambulance availability is once again a growing problem in Hamilton

That won’t stop him, he said, from accepting an invitation to participate in discussions on delays, including the mayor’s proposed summit.

In the meantime, the City of Hamilton says it is deploying extra ambulances when staff are are available. In January, that equated to one to two additional ambulances per shift.

City of Hamilton ambulance stats for January

  • 31 code zero events; highest monthly level in 5 years
  • More than 5 per cent increase in service demand
  • 20 per cent decrease in offload performance across three hospitals
  • 600 offload ambulance delays longer than two hours
  • 74 ‘lower priority’ patients (e.g. fractures) waited more than an hour for an ambulance
  • Up to two extra ambulances being staffed per shift, when available

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