Julie Druker | Jun 23, 2011
Over 60 citizens present at a public meeting in Denbigh were united in their determination to keep their ambulance services in the Denbigh community.
On June 16, Denbigh resident Paul Isaacs led a public meeting at the Denbigh hall to inform the community at large about the IBI Group’s 2010 Ambulance Service Review Update, which was presented to county council at their June 8 meeting. The public meeting was brought about by Addington Highlands Reeve Henry Hogg, who, though he could not attend, felt strongly that the public should be informed of the issue.
Councilor Tony Fritsch expressed his strong belief in preserving the current service. “Denbigh is the logical location for an ambulance base to best serve in this region and it must be retained”.
AH Councilor Adam Snider then reviewed the IBI report, which recommends that “the northern services be consolidated to a single base along the 41 corridor in the Northbrook/Cloyne vicinity and one ambulance be relocated to Loyalist Township, where it can be put to more cost effective use.”
One reason given in the report for the proposed change is the presence of the Lakelands Family Health Team (LFHT), which now operates clinics in both Northbrook and Denbigh. At the meeting, a number of staff from LFHT made mention of the fact that at no time were they contacted by the IBI group prior to the completion of the 2010 report. Janice Powell, executive director of the LFHT, who also served on the 2008 Community Ambulance Committee, said she was surprised to find her team mentioned at all in the report. “We provide primary care service, not emergency services. We do not have the equipment, or the resources to be providing emergency care, and are open only during regular business hours. As far as I'm concerned the ambulance service has to stay, and I am prepared to come back on the committee to fight for it.”
Susan Peters, nurse practitioner at the LFHT, strongly reiterated that point. “Rural communities are under-serviced to begin with and a decrease in ambulance response times will mean that people will die. I do not have access to first line emergency drugs, nor IVs. The bottom line here is that the ambulance must stay.”
Dr. Tobia of the LFHT also spoke from the audience. “It's really quite simple. One life up here in the north is worth as much as one in the south. The biggest issue here is ambulance response time.” Dr. Tobia cited the projected response times resulting from consolidated service stats taken from the 2010 report, which state that with the new proposal, only 13% of Denbigh calls will be responded to within 15 minutes, a decrease from previous years, whereas in Odessa there will be an increase, to 97% of calls that will be responded to within 15 minutes. Dr. Tobia continued, “The notion of reducing response times is ridiculous, especially when all of the guidelines are proving that survival rates depend on people getting to the hospital sooner.”
Gary Foster, Hall 3 chief with the Kaladar/Barrie Fire Department, addressed the issue of the fire department’s need for ambulance services in the area to deal with serious injuries and medical calls. “We dread the fact that right now this area is less serviced by ambulances than any areas in Renfrew County. I can tell you right now that if service is reduced, the result will no doubt be more deaths.”
Paul Isaacs agreed. “This report does not take into account the types of calls that we get here. Out of the total calls, this service has a higher percentage of serious calls than those in Napanee, which means that while we may have fewer calls, they are of a more urgent nature.” Isaacs also brought up the issue of the shape of the service area as well as the widely spread population. “L&A County is extremely long and narrow, and the majority of the population lies within 30 miles of the lakeshore, which means that the service cannot operate the same way it does in other areas. This is a problem in bureaucracy, which seems to deem that all areas require the same kind of service, which is simply not the case.”
Councilor Fritsch addressed the 2010 report’s account of increased cost in the current service since 2008, which many present at the meeting believed was the result of the province’s discontinuation of volunteer service. “One thing that irks me was the 2008 report’s argument to omit volunteers due to the high cost of managing them. The idea to go to full-time paramedics rather than volunteers was supposed to reduce the administrative costs, but instead the costs have increased, not decreased,” he said.
Deputy Reeve Bill Cox weighed in on the overall costs. “This is not a cost saving proposal in any way. If you look at the report you'll see that cross border service is cheaper than supplying your own.”
Denbigh resident Yvonne Rosien, a former first response volunteer with the now defunct volunteer ambulance service, recalled getting paid $2 an hour as a volunteer and questioned why that service was discontinued. “I have watched a 50-year old woman die when an ambulance was standing by in Northbrook. I want to get other politicians involved and see them out here seeing how this issue is going to affect people in this community. It will affect every single one of us at one time or another.” Audience member Frances Rosenblath said she is alive as result of the ambulance services here. “Fifteen years ago I suffered an allergy attack and went into anaphylactic shock and if it wasn't for the ambulance service I wouldn't be here today.”
Members of the community planned to meet at a second meeting on June 21 in Denbigh, where a plan would be discussed on how to present their recommendations in a unified way to county council.