When Paul Charboneau announced he was going to retire from Frontenac Paramedic Services last week, he made sure to reference his commitment to continuity, saying that identifying and training the next generation of leaders is one of the primary ways that he measures his success as Chief Paramedic.
“The team we currently have in place is built on a strong foundation; from the frontline paramedics, to the leadership team, to the administration group, we all have one vision; the best care to the patient,” Charbonneau said.
Part of that preparation for the future has been establishing a successor. Deputy Chief Gale Chevalier, has been the acting chief since September of last year, and will likely be a strong candidate should she seek the job on a permanent basis. A recruitment campaign is already formally underway.
The service that Charbonneau is leaving is a much stronger service than the one he took on in 2004.
When management of paramedic services, and 50% of the cost, was essentially foisted onto municipalities by the Harris government, it took a while for things to settle down. An attempt was made to establish a single service for four Southeast Ontario Counties, and then for two before Frontenac Paramedic Services was established, with responsibility for the City of Kingston and Frontenac County.
Although Paul Charbonneau was hired by Frontenac County back in 2004 and has reported to its council on a monthly basis since then, he has had to face numerous other pressures as well.
Frontenac County Council approves the budget for FPS each year, but the paramedic services are subject to ever changing provincial regulations, and a contract with a public sector union local. There are also 124,000 residents concentrated in the City of Kingston who rely on the service and only 28,000 residents scattered throughout Frontenac County, so service to Kingston has always been a priority.
Before coming to Frontenac County, Paul Charbonneau worked in northern Ontario, managing paramedic services in remote communities. When it was time to look at the facility needs for FPS, the rural area was the first to be studied, resulting in the construction of a new base in Sydenham in short order, and eventually new bases in both Marysville (Wolfe Island) and Robertsville (North Frontenac). There are 24 hour a day services based in both Sydenham and Parham, and a 12-hour service based in Robertsville, and while this may have been the case if Frontenac County did not oversee the service, it may not have.
Paul Charbonneau dealt with difficult, divisive, contract negotiations during his tenure. He dealt with county politics as well, particularly over the new base in North Frontenac, and also dealt with County Council concerns over absenteeism. He took on the union at times over that issue, and he took on county councillors as well. On one particular occasion when he felt the integrity and professionalism of the paramedics under his charge was being challenged by a member of Frontenac County Council, he lost his cool and fought back
He has been heavily involved in the introduction of community paramedicine, starting in Frontenac County, and an entire basket of issues around physical and mental health among paramedics that were not even on the radar back in 2004.
As residents of Frontenac County, we are very well served by Frontenac Paramedic Services, and that is thanks to the dedication of the paramedics and the administration that stands behind them, the Chief of Paramedic services being a key player in all the improvements that have come about over the years.