4/13/11

Ambulance delays and the costs of hospital cuts

Ambulances and their patients waited outside London, Ontario emergency rooms (ERs) for more than 685 hours in March — that’s an average of one working paramedic crew unavailable for emergencies for every hour of every day that month, according to the London Free Press


Based on Ontario’s 2009 benchmark figures of $146/hour/ambulance unit, the cost to sit and wait in that month alone exceeded $100,000.


As usual, the blame is put solely on too many alternative level of care (or "ALC" ) patients in hospital beds, as if the ER backlog was simply a problem of bad management rather than government policy to squeeze hospitals.  


No mention is made of bed cuts or dangerously high hospital bed occupancy levels. 


But this is not simply a bad management problem.  It exists around the province at too many hospitals for that.  


So, on the same day as the London report, a Durham report indicates that ambulance 'off-load delay' in that region increased from 16,000 hours in 2005 to 27,000 hours in 2010.  That means fewer ambulances on the road ready to respond to emergency calls.  


“The cost to the service of course is less ambulances on the road while they are sitting in emergency rooms,” says Durham Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Kyle.


Ironically, municipalities (like Durham) are asking for more money from the province to help them deal with the increased pressures on ambulance services caused by provincial hospital cuts.


dallan@cupe.ca

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