The City of Gatineau, with just over two months remaining in the year, is nearing the annual limit of how many times Ottawa paramedics will cross the border to come to their aid.


Anthony DiMonte, chief of Ottawa Paramedic Services, says Ottawa is about to reach the limit of emergency calls its paramedics can respond to in Gatineau for 2012. (CBC)

Last year Ottawa paramedics set a cap on the number of times they would come to the aid of their Gatineau counterparts at 50 times a year for 2012.

So far this year, Ottawa paramedics have been called 48 times.

Anthony Dimonte, chief of paramedic services in Ottawa, said the cap was imposed because Gatineau dispatchers had become too reliant on Ottawa's ambulances.

In years past Gatineau would call Ottawa about a dozen times a year, but in 2009 they called 55 times, and in 2011 they called 99 times.

Ottawa does recover its costs, billing about $1,000 to the Quebec government per trip, but officials felt the need to set a limit.

"Going forward, the agreement we signed with them was 50 calls would be maximum. That's considered just assisting, anything more than that, that's up to them to resource appropriately their territory," DiMonte said.

"Anything more [has been] determined that I'd become an ambulance service for the province of Quebec, which is completely inappropriate."

Gatineau says its working on solutions 

Gatineau's health board blames a growing population in West Quebec and overcrowded hospital emergency wards, where processing time often keeps paramedics sidelined for about an hour. The goal is 35 minutes.

"In broad terms, obviously we have had an increase in population on our side, and we didn't have — at first, necessarily — the resources that came with it … another ambulance, which we got in 2011," said health board spokeswoman Josianne Menard.

"We are really working on trying to get our ambulances out of emergency wards faster," she said. "This has been something that we've been working on for a number of months. … We're working really hard on that and the ministry made it clear that they will not allow another ambulance, they will not allow more resources, until we become more efficient with what we have."

DiMonte said Ottawa paramedics would make an exception to the limit if there was a plane crash or other catasprophe, just as they believe paramedics from Gatineau would cross to Ottawa to help them.