Toronto paramedics are aiming to submit a business case to the Ministry of Health, in hopes the province will reinstate nearly $4 million in funding amid ongoing staffing concerns and rising patient demand.
In a new report heading to council’s economic and community development committee on Monday, acting chief for Toronto Paramedic Services Gord McEachen is calling on council to sign off on his team reaching out to Premier Doug Ford’s government — and, if given the funds the service is requesting, he’s hoping to bring on more than two dozen new paramedics this year.
That’s, in part, to handle a rising number of emergency calls.
Demand is currently rising by an average of four per cent each year, McEachen notes in the report. And, in 2018, Toronto paramedics experienced a slightly higher spike of 5.4 per cent over the year before.
“The recent provincial funding change will exacerbate the problem, impacting ambulance availability and our ability to respond to critical patients,” he told CBC Toronto in a statement. “In other words, patients will have to wait longer for an ambulance.”
McEachen is hoping for an additional 28 paramedics to be brought on this year, followed by roughly 350 over a five-year period.
Committee chair Michael Thompson stressed council has been aware for some time of the staffing shortages and demands facing paramedics, which spurred the creation of this new multi-year staffing plan following the city’s 2019 budget process.
“The staff working now are working under extreme pressures, and we’re seeing some of them taking time off because of health reasons,” Thompson said.
Toronto getting $106M for ambulance services
According to city budget documents, paramedics are expected to respond to a record 337,265 medical emergencies in 2019 — or nearly 1,000 a day.
During the 2019 budget process, city staff assumed pressures on the fleet would be “partially offset” by expected increases in Ministry of Health grant funding, which are no longer happening.
This year, the city will get nearly $106 million from the province for land ambulance services — which amounts to static funding from the year before, and without a cost of living increase.
City officials say that means a $3.85 million shortfall, or a 3.5 per cent cut.
The Ministry of Health, however, sees it differently.
“Our government is providing municipalities with stable land ambulance service funding this year after several years of significant increases,” said Hayley Chazan, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, in a statement to CBC Toronto.
“As part of our plan to modernize emergency health services, the government is also investing in upgrading the technology used by ambulance communication centres, while also better coordinating ambulance dispatch centres and paramedics to reduce wait times for critical emergency services,” she continued.