County gets in line early for new ambulance

By James Matthews

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Haliburton County’s paramedics are getting a new ride.

County council agreed during its Sept. 27 regular meeting to give pre-budget approval for a new ambulance. It will cost $262,897 plus taxes with a required deposit of 30 per cent.

Tim Waite, the chief paramedic and director of the Haliburton County Paramedic Service, said it’s been past practice to replace an ambulance annually and two every six years or when the vehicle up for replacement is at 300,000 kilometres of service.

There’s currently one ambulance ordered, and the county is awaiting its arrival.

“Prices of ambulances have significantly (gone) up,” he said.

Waite said he remembers a time when an ambulance would cost $148,000. The vehicle previously ordered that they’re awaiting delivery this year dinged the county purse at close to $200,000.

“And they’ve gone up nine per cent this year,” he said. “Very significant increases in prices.”

He recommends council and the paramedic service get their order in the books as soon as possible.

“Getting the ambulance in a timely fashion is still taking time,” Waite said. “So the idea is to get our order in now so hopefully we can receive this ambulance sometime in 2024.”

The ambulance to be replaced has 308,398 kilometres on its odometer and is a 2017 model.

“It’ll have another year of driving,” Waite said. “It’ll be the second vehicle up, but it’ll still put on significant kilometres in the next year.”

He also urged council to OK the inclusion of a power load system on the new vehicle.

“The power load system is becoming the industry standard,” he said. “Most services are going to it now. It eliminates the actual lift into the back of the ambulance.”

The power load allows the paramedics to roll the stretcher onto a platform and secure it. The power load then loads and secures the stretcher and patient in the ambulance without any lifting or exertion required.

The system will assist the paramedics and mitigate potential injury from loading the patient and stretcher into the back of the ambulance. The power stretchers that we now have eliminate most of the lifting during a patient carried call, but loading into the back of the ambulance still requires significant strain on back, arms, and shoulders, especially if the patient is quite large.

Waite stated in his report that the paramedic service has experienced significant increases in call volumes since 2020. Increased call volume results in additional lifting by staff during a shift.

“In 2020, we experienced two lost time back injuries due to lifting,” he wrote. “In 2023 to date, we have seven reported injuries, five of which have resulted in lost time.”

If the power load system is installed at the factory, there’s probably about a $5,000 savings rather than retrofitting an ambulance later, he said.

Haliburton County Paramedic Service replaces ambulances and other equipment on a predetermined schedule.

In a written report to council, Waite said that the department is recommending the previous practice of single-source purchasing of the ambulance fleet from Crestline Industries be continued.

“Crestline ambulances are made of a lightweight aluminum and come with a lifetime paint warranty as the ‘box’ is powder coated and extremely durable,” he wrote. “Our entire fleet consists of Crestline which creates consistency of layout and use for the paramedics. In addition, it allows us to maintain a consistent stock of parts.”

Councillor Bob Carter, the mayor of Minden Hills, said that, with steady population growth, the closure of the Minden Emergency Department, and emergency services response times in the face is increased calls, council should endeavour to stay ahead of the curve.

“I know the ambulance you’re replacing can always go into some sort of a reserve that if you need it,” Carter said. “If you’re close to the 400,000 kilometres on it, there’s not going to be much left of them.

“We have to make sure that we can continue to have an adequate supply and we should not right now but probably next year look at the possibility we may need to get an extra unit.”

“That’s something we can talk about during the budgeting process,” said Warden Liz Danielsen, the mayor of Algonquin Highlands. “As well, early next year if we have a strategic planning process, we’ll include that in the discussion.”