Those staffing shortages are slowing paramedic response times along with other factors according to Mark Halladay, director of the Kingston Central Ambulance Communication Centre.
“The hospitals are so full and backed up, our paramedics aren’t able to transfer the care of the patient off their stretcher to the hospital step. So they get delayed there,” said Halladay.
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Judy Greenwood-Speers lives on Wolfe Island and is concerned about the delays.
She feels the service shortfalls are even worse for Island residents because they have to wait for an ambulance to come over to the island by ferry.
“The system we have right now is not only broken, it’s gonna cost lives,” said Greenwood-Speers.
Shauna Dunn is president of OPSEU Local 462, the union that represents paramedics in Frontenac County.
“The residents over on Wolfe Island are definitely not receiving the service that they deserve and that they pay for,” said Dunn.
Greenwood-Speers’ husband is a cardiac patient and she says she doesn’t wait for an ambulance to arrive if her husband needs care.
“I call the hospital let them know that I’m coming, let the boat crew know that I’m coming, and they have an AED there if necessary and I get to the hospital,” said Greenwood-Speers. “I will not wait and hour and a half and let my husband die.”
Halladay says the challenges the paramedic service is facing are complex, with no quick solutions.
“It’s not just an ambulance problem or (emergency department) or hospital – we just need to rely on our government to keep moving forward and try to solve the problem for us,” said Halladay.
In the meantime, Greenwood-Speers says she’d like to see Wolfe Island residents get emergency response skills training.
“I’d like to see an opportunity for any islanders to be upscaled in their paramedic response,” she said.