Ambulance backing into the Emergency Department at Windsor Regional Hospital- Met Campus. (Photo by Maureen Revait) Ambulance backing into the Emergency Department at Windsor Regional Hospital- Met Campus. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Paramedics union demands more hospital funding to address emergency

The union that represents paramedics in Windsor and Essex County believes an increase in provincial funding for hospitals will help alleviate persistent offloading delays.

The County of Essex declared an emergency earlier this week after Essex Windsor EMS declared a "Code Black" 491 times during the first two weeks of October. The code means no ambulances are available to respond to an emergency in the community. A week ago, all ambulances were waiting outside area hospitals to offload patients for three hours.

A release from CUPE Local 2974, representing nearly 300 paramedics in Essex County, blames a lack of capacity at local hospitals.

EMS crews tend to a number of people after a crash between a car and minivan at St. Luke Rd. and Richmond St., July 31, 2015. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld) file photo of Essex-Windsor EMS. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

"There are three primary solutions," said the President of CUPE Local 2974 and an active paramedic, James Jovanovic. "More paramedics, more hospital staff, and more hospital capacity."

He pointed out Ontario hospitals have the fewest number of hospital beds per capita in the country, tied with hospitals in Mexico. Since 2008, Ontario has spent the least per capita on healthcare across Canada.

"As paramedics, we have been struggling to serve our communities," Jovanovic said. "I have been seeing offload delays for over 14 years."

Essex County splits funding for EMS with the province, but hospitals are funded solely by the Ontario government. When hospitals don't have enough beds, municipalities are left with much of the bill when ambulances can't offload patients and get back on the road.

The union wants the province to pick up the entire cost of offload delays.

"If the province compensates the County for offload delays, that funding can be used for more paramedics and ambulances," said Jovanovic. "The province must also improve hospital staffing levels and capacity to reduce offload delays."

On Monday, County Warden Gary McNamara told reporters the emergency would continue until the issue is addressed.

On Tuesday, Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie told Health Minister Sylvia Jones was eager to meet with local officials to discuss the crisis.

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