Leeds and Grenville face hefty bill for paramedics responding to calls in Ottawa

Taxpayers in Leeds and Grenville have spent nearly $1 million over the past few years for local paramedics to respond to calls in Ottawa, as paramedics struggle to keep up with call volume in the capital.

A new report by the Joint Services Committee of Leeds and Grenville shows paramedics have been responding to an increasing number of calls, leaving the area with a $950,000 bill.

Resident Dan Fitzgerald says that’s difficult for him to understand.

“If they have to respond to a call in Ottawa, if they have to take them to Ottawa, then certainly there should be benefits or financial aid coming back to Leeds Grenville,” Fitzgerald says.

Since 2018, Leeds and Grenville ambulances responded to more than 2,500 calls for help in Ottawa. During that same period, Ottawa paramedics have responded to 297 calls for service in Leeds and Grenville.

The Ontario Ambulance Act requires the closest paramedic unit to respond to a call, regardless of municipal borders. That also means the city of Ottawa is not mandated to repay other municipalities. 

In a statement, Ottawa Paramedic Chief Pierre Poirier says the provincial rules changed in 2015. 

“At the time, it was noted that the Province’s financial contribution of 50 per cent of a service’s operating costs to each municipal service was sufficient to support a seamless response across municipal boundaries,” Poirier said.

He says that the city has faced a high volume of calls during the pandemic. 

“The City of Ottawa recognizes the challenges in providing seamless service and Council has approved important investments in the Ottawa Paramedic Service, which will help alleviate some of the response volume pressures within the city.”

Resident Robert Parson’s says that the numbers should be looked at in the long term to determine what to do.

“Maybe this year we’re helping them out and maybe next year they’re helping us out. It shouldn’t be just a knee jerk reaction.”

Mandated or not, the county plans to reach out to other regions to understand the scope, and call on the city of Ottawa for payment. 

Mayor Corrine Smith-Gatcke of the township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands says that is what comes next.

“We know we’re not the only community surrounding the city of Ottawa that has that particular burden to bare,” she explains.

In 2022, the Ottawa Paramedic Service reported over 1,800 Level Zero incidents, where there were no ambulances available to respond to calls.

Despite the ambulance crisis, North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford says there is hope to strike a deal.

“That’s really why the time is now for us to find a solution,” Peckford says. “You know work productively with the city of Ottawa for a fair and equitable outcome for everyone.”

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