A plan to make Superior North EMS more efficient could see paramedics working out of some fire halls in Thunder Bay.
The idea put forth by Superior North Emergency Medical Services chief Norm Gale has raised concerns with the union that represents paramedics.
Gale’s plan is aimed at reducing response times by having paramedics posted at more locations around Thunder Bay. He said certain pockets of the city need better EMS service — a situation that could be improved by putting ambulances into buildings that already exist.
"There are differences in response times, depending on where you live [in Thunder Bay]," Gale said.
No mergers or cuts planned
The union representing paramedics is skeptical.
"The fear there is that, at some point, they could be looking at combining services with fire," said Kari Jefford, president of CAW local 229. She acknowledged there is no talk right now of merging paramedics with firefighters.
"They're supposed to be different units, but in the years to come, we don't know what [it’s] going to look like."
Gale noted the plan doesn't call for any staff cuts or a merger with the fire department.
He said the overall goal is better patient care and the proposed changes will come at a minimal cost to the city.
The city’s chief paramedic added it's not acceptable that ambulances couldn't respond to more than 1,000 9-1-1 calls last year.
During a meeting of district municipal leaders Oct. 28, Gale discussed the challenges facing Superior North EMS. He said Thunder Bay needs another fully-staffed ambulance available at all times.
'Demand is increasing exponentially by year'—Norm Gale, Superior North Emergency Medical Service chief
That would require another $1 million in the EMS budget.
Gale said long off-load delays at Thunder Bay's hospital means paramedics are held up for hours, when they could be on the road, dealing with new emergency calls.
"We also have profound demand challenges in the city of Thunder Bay, where demand is increasing exponentially by year," he said. "And, that demand will become more severe."
Gale will present his ideas to city council Nov. 7.