Muskoka Paramedic Services (MPS) has launched a program to get paramedics back on the road quicker.
Stuart McKinnon, Deputy Chief of MPS, explains the dedicated off-load nurses program will add extra nurses, paramedics, or other health care providers to the emergency departments of Muskoka’s hospitals. They’re there to take patients off the hands of the ambulance crews, and let them get back on call.
Provincial standards expect paramedics to arrive at the hospital, check in their patient, and be back on the road within a half hour. McKinnon says offload delays in Muskoka are beginning to “creep up” past the 30 minute mark, but not by much.
“In some services, they’ve seen hours of offload delay every day, equating to thousands of hours every year of lost time for paramedics on the road,” says McKinnon. “We’re not seeing it to that extent yet, but we certainly want to get ahead of it if we can, and try to ensure we’re always providing the best level of service in the community.”
According to McKinnon, call volumes are slightly outpacing Muskoka’s population growth, and there’s a number of factors that could be behind the issue: lack of staffing at hospitals, Muskoka’s aging population, people getting sick because they couldn’t or wouldn’t seek care during the pandemic, and people working remotely from Muskoka who aren’t counted as full-time residents.
The program comes thanks to $50,000 from the Ministry of Health, which McKinnon says must be used before the end of March. Since the funds aren’t enough to have extra staff at both sites 24/7, McKinnon says they’re targeting the times with the highest call volumes, such as between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m..
“Those would be peak times that we would want to look at focusing on, if we can get a staff in one or both sites to alleviate some of that pressure,” says McKinnon. “Splitting the coverage between the two Muskoka sites, trying to really get the most bang for our buck in what time of day and what day of the week are we really feeling the offload pinch.”
Depending on how the program goes in the next few months, McKinnon says they might be eligible for more funding the next time around, which would mean even shorter offload delays.
“Our goal is always to offload as quickly and safely as possible,” says McKinnon. “Every second counts if we can get paramedics back out there for any number of reasons. The lower the offload time, the better.”