Grey County's Director of Paramedic Services says it's unclear what awaits his department after the Ontario Government announced plans to 'modernize' land ambulance services.
Kevin McNab says, "We really don't have a lot of information yet," after Minister of Health Christine Elliott told the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference (Aug 18-20) they will look at "How the integration of communication centres and emergency health services can be done more effectively."
There are 22 dispatch centres in Ontario.
Grey County Paramedics are part of a regional dispatch centre based in London along with Bruce County, Huron, Perth, London, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin.
"We hope that at the end of all this, we'll still be Grey County Paramedic Service," says McNab.
McNab says the Province has told them it will do consultations with municipalities and paramedics in the fall.
Minister Elliott told the conference the Province also pilot new patient care models for select 911 patients.
According to McNab the County has strong local programs "We offer not only just our 911 system but we're strongly connected with the community. We offer community programs, our home visit program, our paramedic program, our clinics and referrals."
Grey's EPIC program is run in partnership with the Owen Sound Family Health Team, "I would say we work really hard and work well with our healthcare partners. As far as keeping it in the community and keeping that link to the community, being a part of the County of Grey has been very beneficial for the Paramedic Service," says McNab.
He notes, modernization isn't a new idea, saying the new model being used in Grey focuses on 'treat and refer' or 'treat and release' in an effort to only take those who really need to go, to the hospital.
Grey County has two ambulances in Owen Sound and bases in Meaford, Craigleith, Markdale, Durham, Hanover, Dundalk and Chatsworth.
Meanwhile, Grey County Paramedic Services is seeing a funding reduction.
Minister Christine Elliott told the AMO conference, "Ontario will not be reducing funding to land ambulance services. In fact municipalities will receive on average nearly four per cent more in funding for the 2019 calendar year and can expect continued growth for 2020."
McNab says while four per cent may be the average, Grey is indeed seeing a reduction, "For us here in Grey County, it's not a four per cent. We're looking more at a 0.9 per cent increase."
He says his department had budgeted this year for a 1.5 per cent increase, "We went back through history of what we traditionally receive" says McNab, noting the department received between 1.5 and 1.75 per year to address inflation, "We'll have to look at our budget and look for efficiencies and try to incorporate that in."
In the meantime, he says paramedics wonder about the job impact of possible integration of communication centres and emergency services, "They have a stable employer here with the County of Grey and most of the people are here because they want to be here and they take pride in the service and our community and we really want to ensure that they're looked after."