Ambulance law in the works for N.L. — the only province without one
'It provides order out of chaos,' says health minister about new legislation
Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal government is introducing new legislation that will oversee ambulance operations — and which would finally end N.L.'s status as the only province without regulations in place.
"It provides order out of chaos," Health Minister John Haggie said at a news conference on Wednesday.
"The system that we have evolved, it was never designed. This puts a design behind it."
The new framework would see the Department of Health and Community Services take the lead on the issue. Currently, the Public Utilities Board is responsible for issuing licences, or motor carrier certificates.
Without legislative power, government had "very little recourse" when operators failed to meet their contractual obligations, according to Haggie.
He called the existing contract a "scantily-worded funding arrangement" and said the new law, if passed, will address the "lack of structure" in the existing system.
Fines an option
With the new bill, "there are recourse under law and fines for non-compliance," Haggie said, adding that revoking an operator's license is on the table.
"There will be regulations around conditions for operators and if they don't meet those, and there are safety concerns, then obviously that could be an option."
The introduction of the bill comes after a three-month Grant Thornton investigation in 2017 found only 11 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador's private ambulance operators met both staffing and pay requirements.
That report also revealed that $540,000 went unaccounted for during that same time period.
"[The] Grant Thornton audit definitely showed a lot of lacking issues," said Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"This will definitely hold more accountability to the operators and owners … to where they're spending their money and how things are being run."
Gaudet called the proposed legislation a "great first step" and said he was looking forward to continuing work with government on emergency medical services.
Haggie said he hopes the legislation will be in place by the end of the fiscal year.