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County will fund increased ambulance service from reserve fund

UPDATE MARCH 28: Council will fund expanded ambulance service from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve fund. There will be be two ambulances in the County, operating 24/7.

Council also asks that the Chief of Hastings Quinte Paramedic Service present council with data confirming the use of the ambulance services in the County prior to the 2024 budget deliberations. Hastings County is the County’s service provider for these services here, Belleville and Quinte West.

The 2023 operating budget levy (7.9 per cent before growth and 5.8 per cent after growth) was passed in February, thus taxes cannot be the source of funding this year.

Staff recommended the reserve be used for 2023. Its estimated balance is $632,939; and would be left with $196,296. It is recommended any future surpluses be put into this reserve to help replenish.

Expenses for the next two years are eligible for 50 per cent Ministry of Health and Long Term Care reimbursement on a 50/50 share. The 2024 budget would see $654,965 required; the 2025 $436,643.

County asked to pay up for increased ambulance service – especially over night

MARCH 16: As calls and response times increase, the County is being asked to be responsible for more of its ambulance service needs – especially over night.

The pressing need for increased paramedic services was made clear to council at its Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday.

With approval of funding when council meets at month end, there will be two ambulances in the County, operating 24/7.

Currently there are two from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and one overnight. It is no longer enough.

The County is seeing 42 per cent more calls (53 per cent more on nights) and in turn, longer response times, said Carl Bowker, Chief, Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services.

“Staffing levels in Prince Edward County have remained unchanged in nearly 20 years despite this 42 per cent growth in call volume, ” stated Bowker.

Over night, the County has been relying on Hastings County to respond to 40 per cent of all requests for service. PEC ambulances responded to about 67 per cent of all the calls in 2022.

“There has been a growing cross border imbalance that requires ambulances to be pulled from the busiest call volume areas of Belleville and Quinte West to meet PEC service needs,” said Bowker. “Response times at night have increased by over three minutes.”

He said increasing staffing hours at night is the most cost-effective option, as there is no need to purchase an additional ambulance.

A report from staff has been requested to show which reserve fund will be used to pay for the increased service. It was noted that emergency services would also qualify for funding under the Municipal Accommodation Tax – though not this budget year as funds were directed to roads.

The contract adjustment would be $436,643 for July to Dec 2023; and $873,285 in 2024 and 2025. A 50 per cent Ministry of Health provincial funding is available for operating costs (in the following year).

The percentage of evening calls (9 p.m. to 8 a.m.) being done by Hastings in the County increased to 37 per cent last year, up from 20 per cent in 2007.

Since 2007, there has been an increase in 911 responses to 3,361 calls from 2,367 (42 per cent). Of the 3,361 calls in Prince Edward County, 2260 were responded to by a PEC ambulance.

During the day time, the cross-border calls are more equitable between Hastings and Prince Edward.

There has also been a shift to more urgent calls here, likely due to an increased aging population. Bowker noted there are also about 100 calls more during the summer tourism season.

Last year, response times were 13:02, about three minutes longer than in 2007 when response times were 9:51.

Staff are expected to report the funding source plan to the March 28 council meeting.

Filed Under: Local News

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