New plan for Ottawa paramedics raises concerns about rural service

Emergency responders could soon be required to start their shifts from the Ottawa Paramedic Service's headquarters — even if they're working a shift in one of the city's farflung rural areas.

Emergency responders would have to start every day at Walkley and Conroy HQ

A new deployment policy would see city paramedics start their day at Ottawa Paramedic Service headquarters on Walkley and Conroy roads — regardless of where in the city they'll be working that day. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

Emergency responders will soon be required to start their shifts from the Ottawa Paramedic Service's headquarters at Walkley and Conroy roads — even if they're working a shift in one of the city's farflung rural areas.

The order is included in a forthcoming ambulance deployment plan.

Paramedics currently start their shifts at the ambulance station closest to where they'll be working that day, and the plan to move away from that model has some rural Ottawans worrying about coverage gaps.

'Makes no sense at all'

"Makes no sense at all to start from downtown to come out here, and go back there. A lot of wasted time," said Brian Carry, who lives on Carp Road.

His local paramedic station is moments away in Kinburn, but a full hour's drive from Ottawa Paramedic Service's headquarters.

Carry said his grandson recently stumbled and cut his head, and paramedics got there within minutes because they're never far from the satellite station up the road.

"It's certainly dramatically increased the service level," said Carry about the current deployment regime.

Ambulance coverage is 'dynamic'

However, any change to deployment patterns won't reduce the number of ambulances on the road, said Ottawa Paramedic Service deputy chief Peter Kelly.

Dispatchers are always fine tuning the number and location of emergency responders across the city, he said.

"That's how we maintain our coverage. We're dynamic. We keep moving our vehicles around."

The deployment changes are expected to come into effect in January, 2016.

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