Essex County Warden Gary McNamara makes emergency declaration as off-load ambulance delays persist, October 17, 2022. (Photo by Maureen Revait) Essex County Warden Gary McNamara makes emergency declaration as off-load ambulance delays persist, October 17, 2022. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Emergency declared as off-load delays persist

The County of Essex has declared a local emergency due to persistent offload ambulance delays.

The delays are causing situations where there are no or only a limited number of ambulances available to respond to emergency calls.

Essex Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter said they are meeting with all community partners so an action plan can be developed to address the issue.

"Code reds and Code blacks are occurring with alarming frequency with no end in sight," said Chief Krauter. "Today's emergency declaration will empower us to address this crisis locally and employ made-in-Windsor-Essex techniques and tools to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and visitors."

Last Wednesday, there were 26 ambulances with staff on duty and all 26 were experiencing offload delays outside hospitals for a period of three hours.

During the first two weeks of October, Essex Windsor EMS issued a "Code Black" (no ambulances available) 491 times. In the entire month of September, there were 116 Code Blacks issued.

The offload delay issues are not unique to Windsor-Essex. When there were no ambulances available locally last Wednesday there were zero to seven ambulances available from here to London.

Krauter has made several suggestions to the Ministry of Health to help alleviate the issue. These suggestions include:

  • Recognize offload delays as a public health risk.
  • Create incentives for hospitals to meet 30-minute offload targets and enforce consequences for those that fail to meet the targets.
  • Require hospitals to triage patients brought in by paramedics as a first priority – every time.
  • Implement Fit-to-Sit programs: Allow low-acuity patients brought in by ambulance to go to the waiting room so paramedics can get back on the road.
  • Require hospitals to take a whole-hospital approach and develop escalation plans mobilizing all levels of the hospital to deal with emergency department surges and offload delays.
  • Create standardized measurements and reporting between hospitals and paramedics to ensure consistent and accurate data collection to inform decisions.
Windsor Regional Hospital continues to experience higher than normal patient volumes in the acute care and emergency department.

The hospital is currently operating 60 more acute care beds than it had prior to the pandemic. It also has 400 more front-line clinical staff.

As of Monday morning, there were 44 patients in the emergency department who had been admitted to the hospital but were waiting for a bed to become available.

There are also a total of 42 Alternate Levels of Care patients in the hospital, 27 are waiting for a long-term care bed to become available. The remaining are waiting for home care or rehabilitation services.

Residents who are not experiencing a critical or life-threatening situation are being encouraged to visit their family physician, a nearby urgent care clinic, or walk-in clinic, or call Health Connect Ontario at 811 to speak with a registered nurse before calling 9-1-1 or visiting the emergency department.

Krauter said community partners will continue to meet on a regular basis until the offload delay issues can be resolved.

"The declaration of emergency will last until we don't have offload delays and we're not in the code-reds and blacks," said Krauter.


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