Kronos system still causing problems for paramedics, city staff discussing options
Draft risk assessment of $17M scheduling software now in city staff's hands
The $17-million scheduling system used by several city departments is still causing problems for Toronto Paramedic Services, a month after a CBC Toronto investigation shed light on concerns about its impact on patient safety.
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While the city says it has made progress resolving issues with the Kronos system and has obtained a draft copy of an external risk assessment to discuss the next steps, some paramedics maintain the software suite may be regularly putting the public at risk because ambulance crews don't always show up as on-duty, leading them to miss nearby calls.
"There's still not really any dramatic improvements," said Mike Merriman, the service's current representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Dispatchers are still "scrambling" to make sure paramedics are properly signed in, which wasn't a problem with the previous scheduling system, he said.
"But the biggest problem Kronos has is dispatching the wrong ambulance to the wrong scene," said Ward 39 Coun. Jim Karygiannis.
Karygiannis said he met with dozens of paramedics on the night shift in late August and heard from the frontline workers about ongoing glitches with the system, in addition to a chronic under-staffing of advanced life-support teams.
Internal paramedic emails obtained by CBC Toronto outline more than 20 days throughout August and September in which there was a low level of advanced life-support teams on duty — including several days in which there were only five or six of these specialized ambulance crews operating citywide.
While Kim McKinnon, a spokesperson for Toronto Paramedic Services, confirmed several days of low on-duty numbers, she stressed the figures were only from a certain point in time, and said there were between 22 and 26 advanced care paramedics working throughout the course of each day.
Advanced care paramedic crews are currently meeting the public need, McKinnon added, though it would "always be great to have more."
While what Merriman calls an ongoing "shortage" of advance life-support providers is not tied to the scheduling system, he says glitches causing the system to not recognize the specialized crews being signed in for duty "further compounds" what he sees as a problem.
Draft risk assessment now in city's hands
It's just the latest concern about Kronos, which launched six months ago as a pilot-test for Toronto Paramedic Services, following its adoption as a pilot-test by Parks, Forestry and Recreation in November 2016.
Although the city previously said the software is safe, "administrative issues" prompted staff to undertake a roughly $100,000 risk assessment this summer, which is still underway.
On Tuesday, city spokesperson Jackie DeSouza said both the city and software vendor are "continuing to focus on resolving the issues with the Kronos system and have made some progress to date," but there are "still some ongoing issues that are being addressed."
A draft of the risk assessment, conducted by external firm Deloitte, has now been provided to the city.
Its purpose, DeSouza said, is to help the city decide whether to "continue to remediate the current Kronos system" or to roll back to the previous system — which is close to the end of its lifecycle — while continuing to resolve the issues with Kronos.
It's not yet clear which course the city will take. DeSouza said the draft is meant for discussion purposes and not yet final.
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Karygiannis said he is aware of the risk assessment and has been meeting with city staff to discuss paramedics' concerns. "We all need to work together," he said. "You don't blame one party; we all need to make sure this thing works."
In a previous statement to CBC Toronto, Kronos Inc. said it stands by the safety of its software and has a policy of not speaking on behalf of its customers.
The company's systems are used by nearly 1,000 corrections, emergency medical services, fire, police, and sheriff departments across North America, including 60 in Canada.