No four-wheel drive ambulance for county

By Chad Ingram

Published Oct. 17 2017

The following are brief reports of items discussed during an Oct. 11 meeting of Haliburton County’s EMS advisory committee.

The committee is recommending the pre-budget purchase of a new ambulance from supplier Crestline which will replace a 2012 vehicle with nearly 260000 kilometres on it.

If the county commits to the purchase before Nov. 30 it saves two to three per cent on the price. The ambulance is expected to cost approximately $140000 half of which will be covered by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

While there have been some calls from the public for the purchase of a four-wheel drive ambulance EMS chief Tim Waite told councillors there are a number of reasons he wouldn’t recommend going with a four-wheel-drive model.

“The maintenance costs are phenomenal” Waite said but added there were other non-monetary considerations as well.

“Part of patient care is patient comfort” Waite said adding that four-wheel-drive ambulances offer a rockier ride.

What’s more under the dispatch system the closest ambulance is dispatched to a call. So even if the county was to purchase a four-wheel-drive ambulance there is no guarantee it would be the one going to more remote or snow-covered destinations.

“You would have to stack the entire fleet with four-wheel” Waite said. “Dispatch is going to dispatch the closest ambulance.”

Waite who pointed out there hasn’t been an occasion where a stuck ambulance has affected patient care also added that four-wheel-drive ambulances can also get stuck in extreme conditions.
“Having four-wheel-drive isn’t a red cape” he said. “It’s still vulnerable to being stuck.”

Councillors reviewed the EMS department’s response time plan for 2018. It includes making it to the scene of a sudden cardiac arrest within six minutes at least 20 per cent of the time.

“Response time has historically been used as a measurement for system effectiveness” read a report from EMS chief Tim Waite. “The assumption was that faster is better; the quicker the system responded the higher the quality of clinical outcomes. Recent evidence-based research has suggested that our response times  have little impact on clinical outcomes outside a small subset of call types. The noted plan is unchanged from last year and maintains response time expectations to those calls that evidence shows makes a difference while allowing us more time to respond to requests for service that are less time sensitive. We will continue to monitor and report on our response times as part of our regular quality assurance and improvement process as well as maintain our present deployment plan. The county is able to make adjustments to the response time standard plan at any time during the year therefore if the plan is found to be inadequate we can adjust accordingly.”