More help may be on the way for Thunder Bay Ornge
Deb Matthews says Ornge's new management is changing where it spends its money
Ontario's Minister of Health says she would seriously consider a proposal by Ornge to add helicopter paramedics in Thunder Bay.
Deb Matthews said the agency is already hiring more paramedics and pilots across the province.
"We acknowledge that there have been staffing issues ... at Thunder Bay," she said.
"That's something that the new leadership at Ornge is very focused on improving. We've made some significant improvements but there's more to do."
Ornge has hired 19 more paramedics since the Auditor-General of Ontario raised issues around Ornge, in addition to hiring more pilots, Matthews said.
Matthews noted the province doesn't have more money to give Ornge, but the agency’s new management is changing where it spends its funding.
The province has asked Ornge to submit a brand-new budget, starting from scratch.
"We know that the people who were in charge before were spending ... money on things they shouldn't have been spending money on," she said.
"So we've asked them to do a zero-based budget and build it from the ground up. And we will look very carefully at their proposal."
‘Enormously proud’ of Ornge workers
On Monday, CBC News reported that pilot logbooks show that a lack of paramedics frequently makes the helicopter in Thunder Bay unavailable for emergencies.
When asked by CBC News what she would say to frustrated Ornge front-line employees in Thunder Bay, Matthews said she was "enormously proud of the work they do under very trying circumstances."
"There are a lot of changes underway at Ornge now and I look forward to the day when all paramedics and all pilots and all of the engineers and all of the people who work at Ornge feel as proud to be there as I am of them," she said.
Matthews said she would seriously consider a recommendation from Ornge interim president Ron McKerlie to bring more paramedics to Thunder Bay.
"I rely on Mr. McKerlie to do his job," she said. "And if he thinks there's a better way to do it then I very much support Ornge moving forward to improve air ambulance service."
McKerlie has told the CBC that having only two paramedic crews to split among three Ornge aircraft in Thunder Bay is a problem. He said earlier this week that he is trying to fix the problem.