Sudbury

New vehicles roll out for non-urgent northern Ontario patients

Starting in January, non-urgent patients in some small northeastern Ontario communities won't be taking ambulances to medical appointments in Sudbury or Timmins.

‘Made in the north’ solution frees up ambulances in favour of specialized transport vehicles

Ambulances will be replaced with non-emergency patient vehicles in small northern Ontario communities under a new LHIN plan. (CBC)

Starting in January, non-urgent patients in some small northeastern Ontario communities won't be taking ambulances to medical appointments in Sudbury or Timmins, under phase one of a new plan initiated by the Northeast Local Health Integration Network.

Ambulances will be replaced by "Multi-Purpose Units—" non-emergency vehicles outfitted to carry up to four patients— to appointments at larger health centres.

Currently, ambulances are used to transport patients to medical appointments in larger centers for tests or appointments with specialists.

The system is problematic because sometimes patients are left stranded at the regional centres while the ambulance leaves to respond to emergency calls in the home community, Northeast LHIN spokesperson Philip Kilbertus said.

"[The plan is to] have that vehicle on a more of a scheduled basis to go from start to finish, makes certain loops on a daily basis and people would just get scheduled into that," Kilbertus said, "it requires a bit more coordination, but moving from a kind of one-off approach to coordinating transfers and tests so that people get in and out quickly."

It's a "made in the north" solution, according to the LHIN.

Phase one will include four of seven high-volume routes in Elliot Lake, Espanola, Little Current, Kapuskasing and Cochrane, Kilbertus said.

The cost of operating these loops will be shared between the LHIN, the hospitals and Emergency Medical Services, and would require centralized coordination, Kilbertus said.

According to the Northeast LHIN, the new model includes planned routes from:

  • Elliot Lake to Espanola to Sudbury
  • Mindemoya to Little Current to Sudbury
  • Kapuskasing to Smooth Rock Falls to Timmins
  • Cochrane to Iroquois Falls to Matheson to Timmins

With files from Angela Gemmill. Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges

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