Toronto Paramedic Services unveiled a new, multi-function paramedic station — now the city's largest — in North York Wednesday afternoon and neighbours who showed up to the opening ceremony hope the facility will lead to quicker response times.
The mega-station near the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Keele Street can house 25 ambulances in its loading bays.
Toronto Paramedic Services acting chief Gord McEachen says the facility is a response to the city's growing demand.
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"In Toronto we have an aging and growing population. Every year we increase our call volume by three per cent to five per cent," he said in an interview.
"City council has approved, over the last few years, an increase in paramedics staff so we need additional facilities and support mechanism; vehicles, equipment and processes to become more efficient to respond to that growth," McEachen explained.
He added that the new hub will be a much-needed base for paramedics between shifts.
"The paramedics that report to this station, some of them will be housed here 24/7. Some of them will be deployed to satellite stations to work from. They won't be at street corners. Our paramedics need to be off their feet and into accommodations," McEachen asserted.
Fourteen technicians were also hired to focus on stocking equipment bags and ambulances. In most stations paramedics do this themselves at the start of the day, but with the extra help, staff at the new hub will be ready to go as soon as a 911 call comes in, McEachen said.
"We want to be more efficient with what we have and this helps us with that by compartmentalizing the logistics side of the business," he told CBC Toronto.
Although the Humber River Hospital is nearby, locals say ambulances can take a long time to respond because of limited resources. Neighbourhood residents who showed up to the opening ceremony for the new facility say they're excited by the changes it will bring to their community.
'It will save lives'
"The response time will be quicker and that is a blessing. It will save lives," said Inez Thomas, who lives near the hospital.
The local city councillor, Maria Augimeri agrees that her Downsview neighbourhood was underserved and getting more paramedic resources into the community "has always been a tug of war" at city hall.
"It's a very proud day for me. This has been a long time in the making," Augimeri said.
The station cost the city $15 million and McEachen says there are plans to build three more over the next five years.
No existing paramedic stations were closed to accommodate the new Wilson Street facility. Instead, McEachen says it will provide extra staff and serve as a "hub" for ambulance operations.
Paramedics will begin working out of the new station on Oct. 11.