| Feb 10, 2005

Feature article - February 17, 2005

Feature article February 17, 2005

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New rules for Paramedic lunch hours affect rural response times by Jeff Green

When the Ontario Ministry of Labour fined the County of Frontenac for not giving Paramedics a mandatory half-hour lunch break, there were implications for ambulance services throughout the province. In the case of the Frontenac County service, which serves the City of Kingston as well, the ruling could mean a half a million dollars a year in extra costs.

In Rural Frontenac County, however, it has already meant the County is serving communities such as Ompah and Plevna with an ambulance stationed well over an hour away, on Justus Drive in Kingston.


When the Parham ambulance goes off service, it is either covered off by an ambulance from the Lanark County Service, which is stationed at an old Ministry of Natural Resources Building on Highway 7 west of Perth [at Wemyss], from Northbrook, or from one of our Kingston ambulances, which is stationed on Justus Drive, said Paul Charbonneau, the Director of Emergency Services for Frontenac County.

Certainly, none of these are optimum circumstances, Charbonneau added, and we are seeking better solutions. For one thing, we have proposed turning the 12-hour Emergency First Response Vehicle, which is stationed at Ompah, into an ambulance. That way the Parham and Ompah units could cover each other off for breaks during the daytime.

The Emergency First Response Vehicle provides the same services as an ambulance does on site, but it does not transport patients to hospital.

The proposal to enhance the ambulance service in North Frontenac is linked to a proposal to put on an extra 24-hour ambulance in the City of Kingston. Frontenac County Council will be deciding whether to enhance the service this week as they finalize the 2005 County Budget.

Even if the enhancements are approved, it would still leave the far reaches of the County under-served during night time lunch breaks.

We are considering all of our legal options with regard to the Ministry of Labour ruling, including launching an appeal, Charbonneau said. We are the first service in the province to be hit with this kind of ruling, so others are watching what happens very carefully.

On February 8th, County Council held a Special Session, and decided to petition the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Labour, to amend the regulation of the Employment Standards Act regarding lunch hours to include an exemption for paramedics in the employment of municipalities across the Province of Ontario.

The resolution the County passed on the matter acknowledged the impact of the regulation on the public, stating there are times during shifts of the employees of land ambulance when taking a break may place patients at mortal risk.

For the time being, people in the far-flung reaches of the County are being placed at a greater risk that those living in the City of Kingston.

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