By Chad Ingram
As a cottaging community it’s common for Haliburton County to experience a spike in EMS calls during the months of July and August but that spike was especially large in 2018.
Councillors on the county’s EMS committee received a year-in-review report for 2018 during a May 8 meeting.
Calls for July and August were up 17 per cent from 2017. Overall for the year there was a 3.4 per cent increase in call volumes to the Haliburton County Paramedic Service.
The Haliburton EMS station responded to the most calls. It has two active ambulances stationed there more than at the county’s other EMS facilities.
“That’s why it always appears to be the busiest” paramedic chief Tim Waite told councillors on the committee. The Haliburton station responded to 3636 calls during 2018 compared to 1633 calls responded to by the Minden station and 1415 responded to out of Tory Hill.
“We did meet or exceed [the goals for] all of our response times” Waite said indicating the service was close to the line on meeting its targets for responses to sudden cardiac arrests. The goal is to make it to 20 per cent of such calls within six minutes. As Waite explained because they are so few calls for sudden cardiac arrests in the county “one call can skew that one way of the other.”
The committee was supportive of adding a night shift at the Tory Hill base. That shift would include staffing a night ambulance Monday through Thursday and will cost an additional $47000 in wages and benefits which was included in the county’s 2019 budget.
“We only have two ambulances on at night” Waite said explaining that if those ambulances end up doing out-of-county transfers “it doesn’t take long to have zero ambulances in the county.”
“We have a big county and we never want to be in a situation where we have zero ambulances” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts.
Waite added that the up-staffing at the Tory Hill base provides an additional vehicle to be stationed in Algonquin Highlands up until 11 p.m.
The county recently received its 2019 land ambulance funding from the province – ambulance services are funded half by the provincial government and half by municipalities. For 2019 the county actually got slightly more funding than it budgeted for – $2.6 million versus the $2.57 million that had been included in the budget.
“We always budget as if we’re not going to get any increase” said chief administrative officer Mike Rutter adding this conservative method of budgeting can sometimes mean the county gets a bit more than it was anticipating.
However Rutter has said Haliburton County’s ambulance costs are expected to rise substantially as a result of a planned merger of ambulance services by the provincial government. That merger will group more than 50 ambulance services throughout Ontario into 10 services. And because the county currently has a low per-household ambulance cost regardless of what services it is grouped with its costs will go up. The annual cost of the ambulance service in Haliburton County is $238 per household versus $748 per household in Hastings for example and $953 per household in Frontenac County.