The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority owes the City of Winnipeg more than $750,000 in unpaid paramedic wait-time penalties.
Last year the WRHA agreed to pay the city $113 per hour when paramedics had to wait with patients in emergency rooms for longer than an hour. The idea was to provide an incentive to hospital staff to move expeditiously to deal with patients arriving by ambulance.
But the province didn't trust that the city was using the additional funds for the paramedic service, so the WRHA hasn't paid the city since the beginning of 2012, amassing a bill of $785,000.
Until earlier this year the WRHA paid the offload delay penalty each month. But apparently there were concerns that the money wasn't going to the paramedic service but into the city's general revenues.
Health Minister Theresa Oswald says the WRHA asked for assurances in writing that the penalty was going to the paramedic service.
"They were having some difficulty getting those assurances from officials at the city. They couldn't get that clarification ... they tried of course a number of times, they didn't take this decision lightly to get that clarification, and that clarification wasn't forthcoming."
So the payments stopped.
Oswald said that on Wednesday she spoke with Mayor Sam Katz who assured her the money is going to paramedics.
Katz was ticked off it had to go that far. "I don't think the minister needs assurances from the mayor to be very frank with you. If our staff are telling them, they know the situation better than anybody."
Katz said the funds from the province cover overtime racked up by waiting paramedics. "There's bills going back to I think the end of January, February, of this year right up until June that have not been paid and we'd like it to be paid. You know, it's cash flow, we have to pay staff."
Oswald said a cheque should be cut as soon as negotiations between the two sides wrap up.
Meanwhile, the number of hours paramedics have had to wait over the 60-minute benchmark time has tripled in the past year.