The City of Ottawa will not be signing a deal with neighbouring towns and counties that would see fewer rural paramedics treat patients in Ottawa, despite earlier support from the city’s paramedic chief.
Last week, paramedic chief Myles Cassidy confirmed Ottawa had struck a tentative deal with its neighbouring municipalities that would ensure rural ambulances only respond to calls from Ottawa if patients are in cardiac arrest or unconscious.
But Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency of protective services, told councillors Thursday the city will “not consider” the agreement.
CBC obtained a copy of the draft agreement with Renfrew County, Prescott-Russell and Cornwall municipalities.
It would have meant Ottawa ambulances respond to other serious emergencies, even if a rural ambulance was closer. Right now, the closest ambulance must respond to a life-threatening emergency no matter which jurisdiction they’re from.
Agreement is ‘gamesmanship’ says Ottawa emergency manager
Renfrew paramedic chief Mike Nolan said the deal would dramatically reduce the number of times Renfrew paramedics respond to calls from Ottawa: from 370 in 2016 to about 15 per year.
Nolan said he is “bewildered” by Ottawa’s about-face, especially because Renfrew’s council approved the deal on Wednesday.
“Frankly I wonder what’s fallen off the wagon for that agreement to be tossed aside,” Nolan said.
Last week, Cassidy told CBC he had the designated authority to sign the tentative agreement without council approval pending further approval from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
He also said Ottawa worked with its neighbouring municipalities on the tentative deal.
But Thursday Di Monte said the agreement was “gamesmanship” on the part of the neighbouring municipalities.
“This blowing out of proportion and this ‘it’s the end of the world and we’re doing all the calls in Ottawa’ is not quite true when one looks at the facts,” Di Monte said.
He said Ottawa ambulances respond to approximately 90 per cent of calls in rural areas within city limits, as well as some in neighbouring towns and counties.
Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, whose West Carleton-March ward is largely rural, said he does not agree with the tentative deal, but he also doesn’t want to see Ottawa take advantage of its rural neighbours.
“Being a good neighbour doesn’t mean I can eat dinner at your house every night,” El-Chantiry said.
He said he wants to see Ottawa meet its own ambulance needs so it doesn’t need to rely on rural ambulances.