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HomeNewsAmbulance Offload Delays And Code 0's Increasing Drastically In Kawartha Lakes

Ambulance Offload Delays And Code 0’s Increasing Drastically In Kawartha Lakes

KAWARTHA LAKES-The number of hours paramedics spend waiting at the hospital for their patients to be admitted has increased dramatically over the last two years according to a report presented to City council this week.

“Offload delay is escalating significantly,” said Todd MacDonald, President of Performance Concepts Consulting. “There is identifiable public safety risk to go with that.” 

When a patient arrives at the hospital via ambulance, paramedics must wait until they can transfer care to hospital staff. Paramedics are considered to be on “offload” when they are at the hospital for greater than 30 minutes.

Approximately 33 per cent of calls where a patient is transported to hospital in Kawartha Lakes resulted in an offload time of greater than 30 minutes early 2022. In 2020 paramedics spent 726 hours on offload at the Ross, with an alarming increase to more than 2,000 hours in 2022.

“Offload delay is a complex and multifaceted issue.” Paramedic Chief Sara Johnston told Kawartha 411 News. “We are seeing an increase in offload delays and a significant amount of offloads that are very lengthy (1-2 hours).  We have been very fortunate that the Ross Memorial Hospital has not been as impacted to the same extent as other areas (Ottawa, Durham).  They do their very best, but when the volume exceeds their capacity, unfortunately, it impacts all of us.”

Offload delays create a domino effect increasing the number of times we have no ambulances available to respond immediately to emergency calls. In 2020 there were no ambulances available 220 times while in 2022 it jumped to 417 Code 0’s. That’s more than once per day on average.

“When we are in Code 0 and another call comes in, an ambulance will respond, but it’s more likely to have a delay in response time,” Johnston says.  There are few options in this case:

-call in additional resources

-free up an ambulance

-an ambulance from another municipality responds

The consultant says there are three main reasons for the increase. An ageing tsunami, a propensity to call 911 and population growth are all part of the problem. With our population expected to grow by 14% by 2031 the situation will only get worse if nothing is done according to officials. The report found demand could increase by 47% as the time spent on calls is also up simultaneously.

In May 2022 the hospital along with paramedics launched a program called Fit2Sit that was meant to help reduce delays and allow paramedics to get back into service within the community faster.

“The Fit2Sit program is another mitigation strategy and working quite well,” Johnston explains. “Regardless of how you come into the hospital, you are triaged the same and are transferred to the waiting room when it’s safe and reasonable to do so.  There’s no one solution to offload delay, but it has helped with low acuity patients coming in by ambulance when they are fit-2-sit, freeing up the Paramedics to get them back out into the community to respond to emergency calls.

This week the Ontario government announced funding for a Dedicated Offload Nurse. The Ministry of Health will be providing the municipality with up to $195,000 in one-time funding for the 2023/24 funding year to support the return program. However, the consultant says they have found these dedicated nurses tend to get pulled into other areas of the hospital when things get busy.

“We are working with the Ross on the Dedicated Offload Nurse Program and will do our very best to make sure the dedicated offload nurse remains available to offload a number of patients coming in by ambulance,” stressed Johnston.

“The investment in this program will help reduce ambulance offload times at Ross Memorial Hospital, while increasing ambulance availability, and improving access to emergency health care services across Kawartha Lakes,” said Laurie Scott, Member of Provincial Parliament for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

Not only is the number of Code 0’s increasing but the time spent with no ambulances available is also on the rise. In 2020 we spent 2,570 minutes at Code 0 while in 2022 that shot up to 7,251 munites with no ambulances. The number of high-risk events while at Code 0 has also increased. In 2020 there were 50 high-risk events while at Code 0 and in 2022 there were 131. According to the consultant that means there were 131 times a Code 4 had unacceptable and unsafe response times of 17 minutes or more.

Macdonald says the Paramedic Service should immediately add another ambulance for a 12-hour shift and turn that into 24 hours with the next year. The report also suggests closing the ambulance bay in Pontypool and moving it to Oakwood while utilizing a new ambulance post in Millbrook to cover the Pontypool area.

Council will consider the changes at a later date.





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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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