Winnipeg gains 2 ambulances as part of new funding deal with province

The City of Winnipeg is gaining two ambulances that will be staffed 24/7 as part of a new funding agreement with the provincial government. 

The five-year agreement includes a combination of $51.9 million in baseline funding for 2023, plus one-time funding of $2.1 million for some cost-recovery items, for a total of $54 million. 

Along with the new ambulances, the funding will also allow the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service to hire 20 new staff. 

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has been calling for new ambulances for years to improve response times, with officials saying the service needs as many as 11 new ambulances to reach national standards. 

While this won’t solve the problem entirely, it’s a good start, said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Christian Schmidt. 

“This certainly will not solve in the totality the issues that we’ve had with response times and the demand but is certainly going to take us a step in the right direction,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. 

Schmidt said he hopes the new ambulances can be in rotation within the next two months. He said recruitment for new staff is already underway, noting that the WFPS is trying to avoid poaching paramedics from rural Manitoba, which is already facing dire staffing shortages. 

“We do not want to be creating shortages in other parts of the province, so we very much need to be cautious as we move forward.”

End of dispute 

The new funding agreement ends a long-standing dispute between the city and Manitoba government over how Winnipeg’s ambulances are funded. 

The city and province have been at odds over ambulance funding since 2017, when former premier Brian Pallister froze the grant the province gave to fund ambulances. 

A white man in a black suit and glasses speaks with a white woman in a light blue suit.
Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson chat ahead of a news conference Wednesday announcing a new funding agreement for ambulances in Winnipeg. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The previous agreement had the city and province sharing half the cost of emergency medical services that were not covered by ambulance fees.

The new agreement will have the city funding firefighting services while the province funds the EMS side, but still keeps paramedics and firefighters working alongside each other, explained Helen Clark, chief operating officer of emergency response services for Shared Health.

Both Mayor Scott Gillingham and his predecessor, Brian Bowman, had argued Winnipeg taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing ambulance service since health is a provincial responsibility. 

Gillingham said Wednesday he feels confident that this new agreement addresses that concern. 

“I’m really pleased with the work that everybody has done and I’m grateful to all parties to get us to the place where we’re at a full cost recovery contract,” he said. 

Going forward, funding for Winnipeg’s ambulances will be approved on an annual basis and take patient volumes into account.

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