Winnipeg ambulance response times to life-threatening calls now 6 minutes past target: chief

Winnipeg’s fire-paramedic chief says ambulance response times to life-threatening emergencies are six minutes longer than the city’s nine-minute response target due to both staff shortages and an insufficient number of actual ambulances.

Chief Christian Schmidt told city council’s protection and community services committee Friday that response times have crept up over the years and now approach 15 minutes.

Schmidt said the service is able to send some form of a response within the nine-minute target by sending firefighter-paramedics, with a first responder on the scene in Winnipeg in an average of eight minutes and 47 seconds.

However, the response time for sending ambulances, which are capable of transporting patients to hospital, is getting longer, he said.

“At the end of the day, when there are life-threatening emergencies in our communities across the province, we must have transport-capable resources at the ready to respond … within the timelines that are targeted,” Schmidt told the committee.

The issue not just a shortage of paramedics, but of vehicles as well, he said.

“When we have situations where we go into a weekend where we have one or zero physical ambulances available as spares to go out into service, that’s very concerning,” he said.

“These are things we’re talking about with out partners, but there is work to be done.”

Schmidt made his comments after police and fire-paramedic officials told the committee they are experiencing some success with a program aimed at reducing ambulance transports of patients who would be better served by a mental health crisis clinician.

During the first nine months of the one-year pilot, more than 2,700 calls were diverted from hospitals, the committee heard.

Schmidt said that is encouraging, but it is not enough to deal with the shortage of paramedics and ambulances.

Committee chair Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said the city needs 11 more ambulances.

The provincial government, which pays for the ambulance service the city delivers, been asked to respond.

The city reported in January that the number of hours no ambulances were available to transport patients had quadrupled in two years.

Ambulance response times outside the city have also been called into question. Last weekend, it took 36 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after a fatal skydiving accident was reported in Gimli.

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