At a healthcare meeting Wednesday night in Souris, firefighters expressed their dissatisfaction with proposed changes to P.E.I.'s healthcare system, which they say will do little to improve ambulance response times.
They say response times have slowed over the last several years, as more firefighters have stepped in to become trained as medical first responders. They say they're worried that with changes coming in P.E.I.'s Health system, that response times will decline even further.
Firefighters say they are facing increasing pressure and demands and something has to give.
Gerard Holland, a first responder in Kings County, said more ambulances are needed. He has written the Health Minister Doug Currie on behalf of several fire departments.
He said as a last resort, fire fighters might even have to consider removing some medical services.
"There's nothing at risk today or tonight or tomorrow. If they call their fire departments, if they are in need of assistance, those fire departments will be there for them just like they have been for the last however many years. We’ll just take this one day at a time, the ball is in the minister’s court," says Holland.
Currie said the government is taking the firefighters’ threat seriously.
"Basically what we are trying to accomplish here with the expansion of our ground ambulance fleet is do exactly what fire departments are asking us to accomplish and that is continue to improve our response times," he says.
A group that represents nine fire departments in western P.E.I. has also written to the health department, demanding that ambulance response times improve. They added that they would never withdraw services.
"That would be challenging to be called out to an area where you know you have trained personnel to respond to that. We don't want to envision that situation at all, so we want to work diligently with the province and Island EMS to ensure we maintain the optimum service," says Desmond Arsenault, of West Prince Mutual Aid.
The ambulance service says it has improved response times in the last year. Jeff Waring, with Island EMS, says "with these new assets that Health P.E.I. is bringing in we are very confident we will drop that again."
The president of the P.E.I. Firefighters Association didn't have any comment on the issue.He says it's up to each individual fire department to decide what kind of service they provide, and whether that includes Medical First Response.