Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providing aid in Saskatchewan are receiving some help of their own from the provincial government.
The province announced a one-time $2.85-million subsidy to ambulance operators in response to inflationary pressures, including sharply rising fuel costs, which have resulted in increasing financial pressures for those services.
“This is definitely a good start,” says Kelly Prime, paramedic chief of Midway Ambulance in Wynyard. “It’s definitely welcome news.”
Prime says provincial rates for pick-up and kilometer fees haven’t increased in more than a decade, but their costs continue to climb.
“Our costs have just skyrocketed. Plus adding our fuel costs, my fuel costs have doubled.”
“We’ve seen prices in ambulances jump 30 to 40 per cent,” says Prime. “An ambulance that would cost $150,000 prior to COVID is now well over $200,000.”
Global supply chain issues are also delaying the arrival of those ambulances.
“I have ambulances on order, and we’ve been told 18 months.” says Prime.
An increase in EMS calls isn’t making the situation easier.
“We had an increase of 5,000 emergency responses last year which is something we’ve never seen in our 43 years of history of serving Saskatoon and surrounding communities,” says Troy Davies, public affairs director for Medavie Health Services.
“Right now we’re trending to beat that number again this year unfortunately. You know, our ERs and our doctors are overwhelmed with what they’re seeing with patient numbers.”
The Minister of Rural and Remote Health, Everett Hindley, says this has been a pressure for those he’s talked with from the Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan and ambulance operators across the province.
“We know this is a challenge for ambulance operators,” Hindley says. “We’ve done this once before in the past where the government has provided some one-time funding to help shore up some of those additional cost and that’s what we’re doing with this announcement.”
“We’d be taking a look and sending that money out to the ambulance operators based on the mileage they’ve wracked up.”
Prime says this subsidy will be beneficial to rural services.
“You have a service like La Ronge that does two or three transfers into Saskatoon everyday. That’s a tremendous impact on gas, on equipment, wear and tear on their vehicle.”
While he’s excited about the one-time payment, he says more work is needed to resolve strain in the industry.
“One thing I hope is that this money is new money,” explains Prime. “That this doesn’t take away from a long-term strategy to fix the pressures of ground EMS.