Toronto is known as the largest and busiest city in Canada. With the population continuously growing to almost 3 million people, it is starting to become a major concern that the number of ambulances within the City of Toronto are dropping. The Union representing the Toronto paramedics are warning that there's a paramedic shortage and it's starting to put public safety is at risk. This is also really affecting response times for those seeking medical treatment.
From statistics that were obtained from Freedom of Information requests by CUPE Local 416, the paramedics union, it shows that there is such a shortage of both ambulances and paramedics that some patients are waiting hours before they are able to receive the assistance that they need.
CUPE Local 416 is stating that due to the limited amount of staff to deal with such a large population, 911 calls are getting 'stacked'. This means that paramedics are now responding to emergencies due to their severity. If someone is calling 911 for a lower priority injury, that call can get delayed and the patient could be waiting hours for assistance.
Mike Merriman, the paramedic and EMS unit chair for CUPE Local 416 states that he has been aware of multiple cases where an elderly person has fallen and broken a bone but had to wait for help since no ambulances were available at that time.
According to city budget documents, paramedics respond to around 1,000 cases a day, yet the number of paramedics available to respond to these cases is too low. During the majority of the first 11 months of 2018, there were on average only 35 ambulances to serve the entire city.
Merriman also states that because of this shortage, response times have also started to slow. While Ontario's provincial guidelines state that the average response time for a paramedic should be about 8.7 minutes, the average response time for Toronto paramedics has risen to 11.8 minutes since 2016.
Due to these slow response times, the union is stating that the public's safety is at great risk. "There have been times," Merriman told CBC News, "that there hasn't been a single ambulance available in the system to serve residents of Toronto,".
Just last week, a variety of locals gathered at the Etobicoke Civic Centre to ask Mayor John Tory to increase funds for the Toronto EMS. A thirty-year veteran, Rahul Singh stated at this meeting that over the last ten years there has been a 40% increase in calls, yet not enough new staff has been hired to complete these calls.
This is at the same time that Mayor John Tory has been asking a variety of departments to freeze their spending. Tory's spokesperson did reach out to CBC, however, to state that they don't believe there is any risk to the public. They also pointed out that they have hired 200 new paramedics in the last five years.
None the less Merriman countered that these new paramedics have only been hired to replace those who have retired or quit and there hasn't been any increase in the number of paramedics since 2016.