Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo region paramedic services face $1.2 million budget shortage

Paramedic services in Waterloo region will be short $1.2 million dollars this year, due to the province's decision to keep paramedic services funding at the same level as last year.

Province freezes paramedic funding at 2018 rates

Waterloo region is one of many Ontario municipalities that face a shortage in their paramedic services funds. The province announced it would give municipalities the same amount of money they received last year. (Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services/ Twitter)

Waterloo region is looking at almost $1.2 million less than it wanted from the province this year to fund its paramedic services.

The province recently told municipalities they would receive no increase from 2018 levels for their paramedic service allocations.

Waterloo regional council had budgeted for just over $16.7 million this year for ambulance services, but instead will receive about $15.5 million.

The region had plans to add two more ambulances and hire 10 additional paramedics.

'Dramatic'

"It's on the back drop of so many moving parts that it's really hard to say at the end of the day what impact this will have, but we know it will be dramatic," Regional Chair Karen Redman told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"We have to look at what impact it has on service delivery as well as our capacity to continue to backfill some of these deficits."

The province typically covers about half the costs for paramedic services, while municipalities pick up the other half.

Luke McCann, an advanced care paramedic and president of CUPE 5191, the union representing paramedics in Waterloo region, said he worries what the frozen funding means for future projects.

"We were re-visiting our paramedic master plan to look at more enhancements and maybe look at increasing our needs, but I don't know what this means moving forward," he said.

He also worries that not having enough money will stretch the capacity of available ambulances and paramedics even further.

Challenges ahead

With the region almost half way through its budget year, Redman said it'll be challenge to turn things around.

She worries the region could end up paying more to get the paramedic resources it needs, while juggling other services that also need funds.

"There are very important services and needs that are now competing for shrinking dollars," she said. "Council is going to have to wrestle with those realities." 

Regional staff are just now in the beginning phase of analyzing how the projected shortage of $1.2 million will impact the community. 

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