| Apr 19, 2012

Addington Highlands Reeve Henry Hogg and Deputy Reeve Bill Cox had a decision to make at the Lennox and Addington County Council meeting on April 11. Should they wait to hear their fellow councilors’ response to a staff report that called for closure of the Denbigh ambulance service in favour of a new base to serve Loyalist Township, or should they get a jump on the debate and propose cutting the Denbigh service to 12 hours a day?

“It was a difficult decision to make,” Hogg said after the meeting, “because we really think the Denbigh ambulance should be as it is, a 24 hour service.”

The debate on the future of ambulance service in Lennox and Addington was preceded by a 30 minute long powerpoint presentation by Brian Smith, L&A County Director of Emergency and Long Term Care Services, and Mark Schjerning, Chief of Paramedic Services. Council had asked for information on a number of options, and in addition to financial data, the report included population information. The report pointed out that Addington Highlands, with 6% of the population, has 57% of the ambulance resources in Lennox and Addington County. Napanee, with 37% of the population, has 43% of the resources. Stone Mills, with 10.7%, and Loyalist, with 47.6% of the population respectively, each have 0% of the ambulance resources.

Napanee has the fastest response times in the county, followed by Addington Highlands, Loyalist and Stone Mills.

In advocating for moving the Denbigh resources to Loyalist, Smith and Schjerning said the impact would be “faster response times to a higher number of calls in the south and “an increase in response times to come calls in the north,” leading to a “positive statistical impact on the average response times in the county.”

Immediately after hearing the report, Henry Hogg, moved, and Cox seconded, a motion to keep the Denbigh service open 12 hours a day, and allocate half of its resources to serve the south end of the County.

“I'm going to quote the County's website in response to this report,” said Hogg. “It says L&A County is a 'friendly and caring organization, dedicated to respecting and upholding the rights of its citizens.' I don't believe the people of the north should be called upon to suffer for the statistical benefit of the county.”

Napanee Mayor Gord Schemerhorn spoke next.

“I did not prepare a speech like Henry did,” he said, “but I would say that if I was being responsible to the people of Napanee I would say it is fiscally responsible to close the base in Denbigh. But I have supported Lennox and Addington from day one. I feel I’m between a rock and a hard place. I can’t just sit here and support Napanee when there are such great distances to cover in the north. It would help if Henry was offering to help out with facility costs up there, but I support this in principle.”

“We can talk about facility costs,” Henry Hogg responded.

County Warden Bill Lowery, who is also the mayor of Loyalist Township, said, “I think with the closure of Denbigh and the building of a new, proper base in Northbrook and one in the south we would be up to date and good for the next 50 years. What is being talked about here is a band-aid solution.”

In the end, Council sided with Henry Hogg’s motion, in a vote of 7-1, securing a future for the Denbigh ambulance service.

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