EMS calling their own 9-1-1

by Mark A. Cadiz  While city councillors were concerned with Rob Ford’s oust from office, nearly two-dozen EMS workers attended Tuesday’s city council meeting to voice their very own emergency. As the GTA continues to grow, EMS workers say there has been a 30 per cent increase in emergency calls over the last decade. That’s what convinced two-dozen EMS workers to sit in the public gallery at city hall to express their concerns about the understaffing at Toronto Emergency Medical Services. Ken Horton, a paramedic, helped his EMS team bring the issue to the forefront. “We haven’t hired any additional front line paramedics in the last 10 years, but our call volume and patient transports have increased,” Horton said in an interview. “There are about 850 of us and a lot of us are overworked.” Based on a report prepared by EMS workers, the Ontario Ministry of Health mandated response time is nine minutes, but under the current staffing levels, the mandate is only being reached 61.7 per cent of the time. Most EMS workers believe the public should be fully aware of what is happening, especially since more cuts are planned for emergency services. Paramedic Doug James says he would be comfortable with a workforce of at least 1,000-1,200 EMS workers. “The call volume is increasing, the population is aging and people are having more medical emergencies,” James said.  “It’s a reality we have to deal with 24/7.” Since 2002, there has been an increase in middle management positions, according to the report.  EMS workers say $1.3 million is added annually to the operating budget due to the excess of management, reducing available funds for front line workers. City councillor Adam Vaughan, of Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina believes creating stronger front lines are critically important to the city. “When workers like this come forward and say there is a staffing problem which affects the public’s safety, then it’s our responsibility to take a look at it,” Vaughan said in an interview. Vaughan expressed concern, but wanted to wait till he saw the 2013 city budget, before proposing a solution. The EMS report says there are fewer ambulances on the road today then in 2002 and Horton and Vaughan are both calling 9-1-1. “It is critical when seconds count, and when we are 15 minutes away, it’s just not acceptable,” Horton said.