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As you know, communities and residents across the province are facing serious health and safety issues as municipalities continue to struggle with a severe shortage of paramedic availability caused by long ambulance offload times at hospitals. I am writing today to seek your leadership to reduce these increasingly frequent delays and “Level Zero” situations.
Hospital offload delays are a significant contributor to incidences of “Level Zero” (when there are no paramedic units available for patient conveyance). Hospital offload delays impact Ottawa Paramedic Service’s ability to respond to calls and return to service quickly, and they jeopardize public safety. The trickledown effect of surrounding regional municipalities faced with similar offload delays further exacerbate “Level Zero” incidences locally.
With your leadership, and by prioritizing efficient taxpayer spending, the province can resolve this long-standing issue once and for all by recognizing offload delays as a public safety risk. The province and municipalities pay for paramedics to be assisting residents needing urgent medical attention. They do not pay, nor do they want, paramedics to perform hallway medicine in hospital emergency rooms. The province needs to send a strong message to hospitals that offload delays are not acceptable and encourage them to be open to innovative solutions by working
collaboratively with all parties involved. With your direction, incentives can be implemented for hospitals to meet the 30-minute offload target and create standardized measurement and reporting between hospitals and paramedics, so we have more consistent and accurate data collection to inform decisions. Last week I met again with staff and the leadership of the local hospitals to brainstorm and discuss urgent action needed from all parties. We are currently experiencing a 20 per cent increase in response volume and over 1,125 incidents of “Level Zero” to date in 2022. Our local hospitals recognize that they must develop a culture that prioritizes getting paramedics back on the road as quickly as possible. They are working to triage patients brought in by paramedics and to take a whole-hospital approach, including escalation plans that mobilize all levels of the hospital when there are emergency department surges and risks of offload delays.
Hospitals recognize the offload issue, but point to long-standing institutional challenges, such as the need for additional ‘alternate level of care” (ALC) beds, to free up space in emergency departments. Such challenges will take time to solve. In the meantime, we are seeking your help to move this issue forward on an urgent basis.
We are therefore requesting funding for 42 additional paramedics to address current shortages and ensure public safety moving forward. If funded, we have agreed with local hospitals that these new paramedics could be strategically allocated to the four area hospitals and care for lower acuity patients waiting in the emergency department.
This would allow for more paramedics to return an ambulance back into service faster. I have the hospital sector’s full commitment to the proposed approach. I have attached a recent letter I received with additional information and a clear commitment to this strategy.
I would be happy to discuss this further with you and provide any additional information required. I would also like to reiterate my appreciation for your engagement and assistance on this important issue and for your ongoing commitment to the residents of Ottawa. I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your open and ongoing discussions with me over the last number of years on this issue and others
that directly impact our community’s health and safety. Specifically, we are pleased with the Ottawa Paramedic Service Community Paramedic Program, Mental Wellbeing Response Team, and Palliative Care Program, which are three great examples of initiatives that demonstrate innovative community engagement and service and the province’s willingness to pursue innovative approaches to health care.
Should you have any questions regarding this request, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Jim Watson, Mayor
City of Ottawa
cc: The Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing