Erin officials ‘not impressed’ with lack of action on ambulance issue

Erin Mayor Rod Finnie says he has been given the impression a new ambulance for Erin is not coming, despite a report identifying the need for the service.

“I am not impressed,” Fin­nie said sternly at a recent council meeting as he relayed that News.

The mayor said he was told  – during a meeting with Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge, Guelph Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig, and Shawn Armstrong and Sandy Smith of Guelph Wellington Emergency Medi­cal Services (GWEMS) – that financial implications may prevent a new ambulance from being stationed in Erin.

“It certainly was not the information I wanted to hear,” Finnie told the Advertiser. “There is a demonstrated need in Erin for improved emergency medical assistance.”

In fact, ambulance response times in the town are regularly around 23 minutes, well above the provincial standard of just under 15 minutes.

Last month, a GWEMS re­port recommended a staffed ambulance be stationed in Erin 12 hours per day, seven days a week, to help lower response times.

But Finnie said city officials are worried about the price tag –  $175,000 for an equipped ambulance and $560,000 in annual operating costs, which would be split between the city and county.

He said city officials suggested the town’s fire department respond to more medical calls, but that idea presents its own set of problems.

“They aren’t paramedics and they’re also volunteers,” said Finnie. Asking firefighters  to respond to more calls would mean added costs for training and equipment, he added.

“I don’t know where Erin’s going to find the money,” he said. “It can’t just be a one-way street.”

Erin councillor Ken Chap­man wondered what it will take for the committee to realize safety is not just measured in dollars and cents.

“I guess someone important’s going to have to die … some little kid,” Chapman said.

County councillor Lou Maieron, who has lobbied for years for an ambulance in Erin, also wondered what happened to the May report from Armstrong.

Last month’s ambulance committee meeting was cancelled, so the report should have been presented at the June 10 meeting, but that did not happen.

Guelph councillor and committee chairman Leanne Piper said the report “is being modified” and should be ready for the next committee meeting in July. But she failed to mention the committee does not meet in the summer, meaning the matter will be delayed yet again – this time at least until Sep­tember.

Piper at first suggested no delegation would be allowed to speak to the issue because the report was not on the agenda, despite the presence of several Erin residents and four town councillors. She suggested do­ing so would be like having a delegation “in a vacuum.”

Committee member and Puslinch Mayor Brad Whit­combe twice asked that the delegation be allowed to speak, and the rest of the committee agreed.

Maieron told the committee a lot of the town’s ambulance calls are being answered by ambulances from Caledon, Or­angeville and other areas, despite the $400,000 the town an­nually pays towards the GWEMS.

He added the new ambulance in Rockwood “really hasn’t helped that much,” shaving just 55 seconds off response times.

“I certainly hope somebody doesn’t have to die because of slow ambulance service,” Maieron said. “This is four years-plus I’ve been working on this.”

He told the committee he would like its help in reducing Erin’s “terrible annual response times.”