Nova Scotia

Still no timeline for when ambulance service evaluation will be made public

The Nova Scotia government contracted consultant firm Fitch and Associates for $145,000 to do the review, which Health Minister Randy Delorey ordered in August 2018.

Report ordered by N.S. government initially due last December, minister says it's now being reviewed

Health Minister Randy Delorey has pledged to make public the review his department commissioned of the province's ambulance service. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Despite being due last December, Health Minister Randy Delorey still cannot say when the public will get to see an independent review of the province's ambulance system.

The province contracted consultant firm Fitch and Associates for $145,000 to do the review, which Delorey ordered in August 2018. The company subsequently missed multiple deadlines to deliver the review, which finally landed on the minister's desk last month.

On Thursday, Delorey told reporters officials in his department are still working their way through the report, which will guide any changes to a system that hasn't had a comprehensive review in years.

As department officials review the report and how it might affect the health-care system, Delorey said they are also putting it through the freedom-of-information system to screen out any proprietary or private information before making it public.

"Once it's done that process, we'll be making it available publicly," he said.

Not waiting to make changes

Although the review is almost a year overdue, Delorey said he hasn't waited to try to make changes to help the struggling system.

Earlier this year he issued directives for the Nova Scotia Health Authority to find ways to bring down ambulance offload wait times. Ambulances were being tied up outside emergency departments waiting to turn patients over to hospital staff, delaying their return to service.

Initial results from those changes have been promising, said Delorey, pointing in particular to dramatic reductions in offload wait times at the Halifax Infirmary, while conceding there is still plenty of work to do.

"We've taken action recognizing that improving that situation is not something that EHS can complete on their own, but rather in collaboration with their partners at the health authority."

A call for accountability 

Argyle-Barrington MLA Colton LeBlanc, a paramedic and the Tory critic for pre-hospital and preventative care, said he and his former colleagues have anxiously awaited the report.

"There's some huge gaps that have been identified over the past few years," he said in a phone interview.

"I think paramedics are sort of desperate for solutions and they're hopeful this report will contain very important information to help guide improvements."

Delorey said he's not aware of any penalties Fitch will face for being late delivering the report, but NDP health critic Tammy Martin said there needs to be accountability.

"If you hired somebody to put a roof on your house and they're 10 months late, you know, I would hope that they would be held accountable," she said in a phone interview.

"We're talking about health care and ambulance services to the people of Nova Scotia. Somebody needs to be held accountable and the government is responsible to hold this firm accountable."

Martin and LeBlanc both said the government needs to act quickly on whatever recommendations are contained in the report.

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