Code zero ambulance emergencies still soaring in Hamilton

The number of times in February where one or fewer ambulances were available to respond to emergency calls in Hamilton, new statistics show, remained well above the same month in previous years.

There were 21 code zero ambulance events in the city in February

There were 21 code zero ambulance events in the city in February, newly released city statistics show. (CBC)

The number of times in February where one or fewer ambulances were available to respond to emergency calls in Hamilton, new statistics show, remained well above the same month in previous years. 

There were 21 code zero ambulance events in the city in February, up from eight in the same month last year, and just four in February of 2016.

That's still slightly down from 31 code zeroes in January — the highest monthly level the city has seen in five years.

Mario Posteraro, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 256, which represents Hamilton paramedics, told CBC News that nothing is going to change until the provincial and municipal governments come together in a concerted effort to fix the problems that are plaguing Ontario's medical system.

"Paramedics should not be treating patients on stretchers while they are waiting for hospital beds," Posteraro said.

(City of Hamilton)

The union says that Hamilton's problem is largely caused by a prolonged surge in demand from 911 calls, and offload delays at over capacity hospitals, where no beds are available. Under current legislation, paramedics can't leave a patient until they are seen at the hospital.

In an email, city spokesperson Allison Jones said that senior leadership from the city, the mayor's office and local hospitals are meeting to look for resolutions to the offload delay issue.

She also said that the city's general issues committee had approved funding for an additional ambulance to "help with increases in call volume" — but Posteraro said that's not the case.

He says funding for that specific ambulance has actually been in place since early January on an interim basis, and was set to expire in March. The city just extended it, he said.

"It's had no effect on code zero events," he said.

"We need at least five to six more ambulances to make a dent… while the province grapples with funding shortfalls."

In its 2018 tax operating budget announcement, the city also said it is hiring 10 full time equivalent paramedics.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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