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London, Ontario. Paramedics call for dispatch reform amid ongoing tensions

The strain on the healthcare system is felt on a daily basis by emergency workers in the London, Ontario area, and the impact often stems from effects beyond their control. increase. , Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Service (MLPS) chief said reforming the dispatch system could go a long way.

Dispatch systems control the increase or decrease in ambulance movement across London and Middlesex County, control how various calls are assigned or triaged, and are currently It is run by the Ministry of Health.

READ MORE: Ontario paramedics say increased off-road delays are slowing ambulance response times.

That tension was first felt by Josh Allen, who spent eight years as an advanced medical paramedic at the MLPS before retiring in April. Hand. Since then he went to work in a rural service on the outskirts of London.

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Prior to his departure, Allen was in a medical family emergency several hours away from his location. He says he wanted to be available, but he added that the problems he faced while working as a paramedic in London pushed him beyond his limits in deciding to retire.

Allen says the problem is multifaceted and exacerbated during the pandemic. This includes understaffing, volume of calls, and offload delays in emergency rooms.

Josh Allen, who spent eight years as an advanced medical paramedic at MLPS, left the service in April to join another local service. I moved. Josh Allen / Courtesy

I was lucky enough to return to the station for a rest as soon as I walked through the door.

"I need to pee, I need to eat a sandwich, 20 to 30 minutes a day. You have to put your foot up, and the way dispatch centers are set up right now doesn't take that into account.Things, it's just: Here's the phone, we need to fix the phone. Take the closest truck to it, and you're gone.

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with a union representing local paramedics According to one OPSEU Local 147 president, Jason Simbine, Allen isn't the only one feeling the strain:

"Nearly 30% of our staff are looking to find another job as soon as possible. I know you are about to retire," Schinbein said of a recent survey sent to Local 147 members.

Other studies conducted by labor unions show that the average age of local paramedics is dropping, with the majority now in their early 20s, Simbine said.

"Almost every day there are fewer ambulances than we would like. We just don't have them, so we can't fill the trucks. The system is overloaded, It has been neglected for the past decade or more.”

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Read more: Experts Say Five Things That Can Alleviate Pressure on Ontario's Health System

MLPS Chief Neil Roberts said local emergency workers could It said it faces “constant pressure” from increased traffic and off-road delays.

"On top of that, our staff has been dealing with COVID for almost two and a half years, so we are certainly exhausted," Roberts added.

"This year alone, our hiring has been unprecedented. We've hired 83 new staff and added three 12-hour vehicles, but the problem is... The more you hire, the more talent you need.”

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Roberts and Schinbein also weighed in on the ongoing tensions. I agree that the main problem causing it is MLPS's dispatch system.

Call for ride-hailing reform

According to Roberts, current ride-hailing systems are outdated and flawed, often resulting in unreliable data when tracking "code zero" events . There are no ambulances available to answer calls.

This was because the appropriate technology was not available when the Department of Health began tracking code zeros, and dispatchers were not properly trained in how to do so, Roberts said. said. Ground with available vehicles.

READ MORE: 'Disappointing': Ontario hospital closes ER again due to lack of staff

Another common problem is that when the dispatcher presses the button required to declare code zero, that code zero remains in effect until the dispatcher clears it completely.

"Dispatch is very busy. I don't blame the dispatcher. Code zero when the system was restored. He forgot to stop the clock," said Roberts. added.

According to Roberts, too many non-urgent calls are treated as emergencies in the current dispatch system.

"80-85% of calls will have lights and sirens. The reality is that about 15% of the time the lights and sirens are back, and over 70% are triaging or We over-prioritize,” he added Roberts.

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For many years MLPS and Middlesex County, responsible for providing ambulance services in the area, has advocated the reform of dispatch.

Middlesex County Mayor Alison Warwick Global responded to his news that he intends to repeat the call when he meets with Health Minister Sylvia Jones at the Ontario Association of Local Governments face-to-face meeting next week. Told.

Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment on her MLPS concerns about the dispatch system, but has not received a response by the deadline.

Read more: Ford's Speech to the throne says more can be done with medical staffing.

Calls to reform the dispatch system have yet to be answered, but Roberts says there are workarounds that could lead to long-term solutions in the meantime. .

Another success was found in an ongoing diversion strategy observing mental health patients with low vision who are brought to the Canadian Mental Health Association's Huron Street Site rather than to the emergency department by paramedics. rice field. Giving paramedics more alternative destinations for patients may further reduce the burden on emergency departments, says Roberts. What I want is a dispatch system, so when that call comes in, we either transport an ambulance with a highly skilled paramedic, or we dispatch an ambulance. , dispatching mental health teams or integrating into hospital systems," Roberts added. 133} "More coordinated collaboration to deliver health care...that's the real goal."

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