Paramedic services in Ontario are under serious pressure. Demand for land ambulances is rising and there are growing delays caused by the inability to offload patients at hospitals. As a result, too often, ambulance coverage in Ontario is critically low, putting the health and safety of Ontario residents at risk. Because of funding pressures, municipalities have not responded by increasing scheduled hours for ambulances. Instead, workers are being called upon to miss breaks and work increasing rates of overtime in order to provide desperately needed services.
In 2019, the Canadian Union of Public Employees submitted requests under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to all 22 local governments in municipalities or regions where CUPE represents ambulance workers. We also submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and looked at publicly available data from the Ministry and from the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs.
The resulting statistical portrait is cause for deep concern. The total volume of emergency calls in Ontario is rising, with the highest rate of growth taking place in the category of calls that demand the most urgent response. The number of times that services are being called on to help each other is also increasing. The number of scheduled hours for ambulances, meanwhile, is not keeping pace with the increasing call volume.