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Chapman pushes county for better ambulance service in Erin

by David Meyer

GUELPH

Erin councillor Ken Chapman told county council Jan. 28 his community still needs better ambu­lance services.

His plea comes at an awkward time for politicians. Three days earlier, Guelph had decided to pull out of the joint social services committee that had responsibility for ambu­lance, and suggested the county could attend the city ambulance committee as a delegation.

As well, an arbitrator had just told the city the county was doing its job correctly with social services, and the costs to the city would increase about $2-million for those - just as the city looks to cut costs.

Chapman said last June, county representatives on the ambulance committee and sev­eral city councillors support­ed having an ambulance in Erin 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

He noted, though, Mayor Karen Farbridge said that would happen only if Guelph’s budget allows it. The city never did follow up. Then, the mayor suggested a public meeting in Erin to resolve the situation. Director of Emergency Servic­es Shawn Armstrong booked a room at Centre 2000 for a meeting Oct. 29, but Erin coun­cil and citizens were never told the format. On Oct. 16, Chap­man said the town got an email from Guelph saying the meet­ing  was postponed.

Chapman said, “Up to this moment in time, that ‘post­poned’ meeting has not been rearranged.”

What bothered him particu­larly was suggestions to im­prove service by the ambulance committee were never acted on.

“As I have delved into the past regarding information on the ambulance committee ... I have been astounded as to what I have found. In one situation it was recommended that a para­medic roving unit be placed in the Erin, Hillsburgh and Rock­wood area on a trial basis and a review would be made after a trial period. This was never carried forward.”

He said Mayor Rod Finnie told Erin council an ambulance that was going to be placed on the west side of Guelph, would instead, be stationed in Rock­wood for a six month trial to see if that would help reduce the Erin response times.

“I stated at that meeting that this ambulance  was being mov­ed to Rockwood to service the south end of Guelph, and my statement was proved cor­rect, since out of 932 calls, only 73 calls responded to the Erin community and whereas 731 calls responded to south Guelph.”

He noted before the six month trial was up, Guelph signed a ten year agreement with Rockwood to service Guelph, “confirming my sus­picions that this ambulance had noting to do with Erin and everything to do with Guelph.”

He said instead of improv­ing Erin service, the system was making it worse.

“A few facts tend to slap you in the face,” he said. “In January to June 2008, the 90th percentile was 24 minutes and 23 seconds, and from June to December 2008, the 90th per­centile was 23 minutes, 23 sec­onds, a reduction - because of the Rockwood ambulance – of 55 seconds. Yet in 2006, the 90th percentile for the Town of Erin was 22 minutes and 14 sec­onds, it looks like the re­sponse time is getting longer - not shorter.”

He concluded Erin is paying about $375,000 for a service it is not receiving.

He said after seven months he has concluded, “It is obvious that Mayor Farbridge has cre­ated herself the ability to have veto power which she is using to stonewall the Town of Erin and she is using us as a cash cow and a political football.”

He added that she has also stated she does not want Guelph involved in an ambu­lance committee. He said he has come to a cynical con­clusion the city has taken $1.5-million out of Erin “while con­stantly refusing us an am­bu­lance, and now they want to cut and run.”

He asked county warden Jo­anne Ross-Zuj to call a public meeting next month to explain what progress has been made with Guelph and to state when Erin can expect a full time am­bulance. He noted he had writ­ten his speech Monday night, be­fore the city dropped out of joint social services.

He concluded, “If we take the $375,000 from the Town of Erin and matching dollars from the province, the 73 ambulance responses from  the Rockwood based ambulance were at a cost of $10,273.97 per response – not very good value for money.”

Ross-Zuj told Chapman the county shares his concerns.

Councillor Walter Trachsel said there is legislation for cardiac patients coming that will require quicker response times than the current ones.

Chief Administrative Offi­cer Scott Wilson said all calls will be monitored and have to be publicly posted.

Chapman said Guelph has been claiming it meets the re­sponse requirements of the province because it averages its calls. The short times in the city show it meets provincial re­quirements, but that does noth­ing for Erin residents who must wait nearly ten minutes longer than the provincial require­ment.

He said Guelph sug­gested Erin use its fire department for first response, but he opposes that for a volunteer organiza­tion.

Councillor Chris White, of neighbouring Guelph-Eramosa Township, said of the Rock­wood ambulance. “We appre­ciate having an ambulance. I think this [situation] is a shame. This is isn’t about money and costs, it’s about life and death. We should be able to fix this.”

Councillor Lou Maieron, who has also been trying for better service for several years, agreed. “This is not a matter of money.”

Ross-Zuj said there are investigations going on “as we speak” by the county’s legal team. “We share your concern. It’s not just Erin; it’s through­out the county.”

 

Vol 43 Issue 07

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