Manitoba EMS review recommends closing 18 stations
Review also calls for ambulance wait time standard
A large-scale review of Manitoba's emergency medical services system recommends closing some paramedic stations and upgrading others, as well as setting a province-wide standard for ambulance wait times.
The review report, released Friday, recommends closing 18 low-volume EMS stations and consolidating others.
"Using a combination of computer modeling and judgment coming from experience it was projected that 74 stations should be sufficient to achieve the approved response time in rural and northern Manitoba," the report states in part.
"This represented a reduction of 18 stations over the current 92 stations."
Of those 18 stations, 11 of them would be within the area that used to be covered by the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority in western Manitoba, while the remaining seven would be "scattered across the former regions of Central, Interlake and North Eastman."
Health Minister Theresa Oswald would not specify which EMS stations may be shut down, but she said the closures will not affect ambulance response times.
"It's less important about where an ambulance is parked in a garage overnight than it is about where 24-7, highly trained personnel can be stationed," she said.
Last year, the CBC News I-Team revealed that 54 per cent of ambulance response times in Manitoba did not meet existing provincial guidelines.
The provincial government will now establish a province-wide response time standard of no more than 30 minutes for 90 per cent of the population, 90 per cent of the time.
The new response time targets for cities will be under nine minutes.
The 69-page review report by Reg Toews, whom the province calls "a recognized leader in the health care system", makes a total of 54 recommendations that is estimated to cost $5.6 million per year over five years to implement.
But Oswald said it could take up to 10 years to implement all of the recommendations.
The report also suggests buying 15 more ambulances and replacing older ones, as well as providing more training for paramedics.
Oswald said the province will also develop legislation to allow, for example, for patients to be dropped off at urgent care facilities — like the one at the Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg — rather than sending them to emergency rooms.
Paramedic representatives with the Manitoba General Employees Union say they are happy with the EMS review and they are eager to see the recommendations implemented.