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Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Matthew Luloff send letter to health minister asking for help to solve Ottawa's paramedic offload delay problem

According to Watson and Luloff, there were 750 instances of "level zero" in Ottawa, meaning no paramedic units were available for patients in the city.
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Ottawa Paramedic Service. (Photo/Dani-Elle Dubé)

The problem of paramedic offload delays continues to be more and more severe in Ottawa, so much so that it was time for the city to reach out to Ontario’s Minister of Health for help.

On Friday, January 14, Mayor Jim Watson and Matthew Luloff,  chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee, submitted a joint letter to Minister Christine Elliott pleading of the province to solve the offload delays that continue to impact Ottawa’s paramedics.

“We are asking you to lead the coordination of stakeholders, including local hospitals, to implement additional strategies to improve offload performance and, at minimum, meet the benchmark for transfer of care at 30 minutes at the 90th percentile,” the letter read. “As we have discussed, every day Ottawa paramedics are delayed by area hospitals in transferring the care of patients from paramedics to the appropriate hospital staff.”

This, they said, is a longstanding issue that has only been exacerbated by COVID.

According to the duo, Ottawa paramedics experienced 750 instances of “level zero,” where there are no paramedic units available for local patients.

“Hospital offload delay has a significant impact on the Ottawa Paramedic Service’s ability to respond to calls and comply with legislated response time stands,” the letter continued.

While Watson and Luloff acknowledge efforts made by the province in recent years, the two said they are looking for more long-term, sustainable solutions to address the “chronic and systemic issue” of offload delays in Ottawa.

Another issue highlighted was the need for additional hospital capacity to be directed to efforts to improve those delays.

Watson and Luloff said Ottawa’s city council has made “significant investments” in the Ottawa Paramedic Service to address the increase in demand and meet response standards.

Recently, council approved 14 full time equivalents in the 2021 budget and 14 full time equivalents in the 2022 budget. This brings the total number of paramedics hired since 2015 to 92.

“Despite these investments, the Ottawa Paramedic Service is unable to improve service coverage as paramedics are stuck in emergency department due to offload delays,” they said.

In the last six months of 2021, Watson and Luloff say Ottawa paramedics have spent more than 28,000 hours in offload delay.

The 90th percentile hospital offload delay was 71 minutes, going far beyond the 30 minute benchmark.

“Hospital offload delay is a persistent issue requiring immediate action from you government,” they stressed. “We would appreciate you leadership to coordinate stakeholders, including area hospitals, to make the changes necessary to release paramedics back into the community to fulfill their critical role in providing emergency medical care.”

Watson and Luloff both said they are happy to discuss and provide addition support should Elliott and the provincial government need it.

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