Ottawa paramedics say they will impose a cap on how often their ambulances travel to calls in Gatineau, saying the Quebec city has become too reliant on their services.
Last year Gatineau requested help from Ottawa paramedics close to 100 times, prompting Ottawa to start billing the Agence Santé d'Urgence $1,000 for each time they were called.
Anthony Dimonte, chief of paramedic services in Ottawa, said in the past, Ottawa would help Gatineau on an ad hoc basis a dozen times a year if Quebec 911 operators found that Ottawa's ambulances were closer to the scene of the crash.
But in 2009 Gatineau called Ottawa paramedics 55 times. In 2011, that jumped to 99 times. So far this year, Ottawa paramedics have responded 32 times to calls in Gatineau.
Ottawa has not called Gatineau paramedics once during that time frame, in part because Ontario's paramedics have a higher level of training.
Dimonte said while aiding Gatineau doesn't cut into emergency response times in the capital, it does have an impact on the city's bottom line.
Ottawa to cap responses to 50 a year
"It is not for the citizens of Ottawa or Ontario to pay for ambulance service to Quebec," said Dimonte.
Dimonte said he wants to cap the number of times Ottawa responds to 50 times a year, but said such a cap would not prevent the service from responding in the event of a major emergency.
Gatineau has about 150 paramedics, and Dimonte said if the city needs to rely on Ottawa as often as it does, the province should hire more paramedics.
Outaouais Paramedics Cooperative spokesman Marc Paquette said they would have to adjust to the change, relying more on emergency services in neighbouring La Peche or putting non-emergency calls on waiting lists.
Quebec health officials said there was no plan to hire more paramedics in the region, but said instead the focus will be on improving transition times to get ambulances out of the hospitals faster.