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Ford government proposes changes to ambulance, 911 services

Last Updated Sep 6, 2019 at 5:53 pm EDT

The Ford government is proposing major changes to how ambulance and the 911 services work.

The new proposal would give paramedics the leeway to transport patients to destinations other than the emergency department, allowing them to treat patients on-scene, refer them to another health care provider, or release them.

The proposal also says 911 operators may refer select low acuity patients during the 911 call to appropriate care in the community.

The “Ambulance Act & Health Insurance Act” was posted September 5, 2019. It appears the government is accepting public comments on it until October 6, 2019.

“We know that there are a lot of people who are brought to hospital that don’t necessarily need to be there and they end up spending hours, sometimes days in the emergency department and that is contributing to people being treated in hallways, storage rooms and so on,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in an interview.

“The hospitals end up sort of being the place where everybody goes when they don’t know where else to go.”

These changes were outlined in the spring budget. Changes may be made as the consultations continue. The government says health professionals have been consulted.

The act would also see nurses hired to work at 911 centres and would would set a co-pay for ambulance transportation to non-hospital destinations that is in line with the current co-pay for ambulance transportation to hospitals.

Its a move that appears aimed at easing hallway medicine and hospital overcrowding.

Patient safety is the paramount consideration in all of those decisions, Elliott said.

“It’s going to be necessary that whoever is going to be making the decision, whether it’s the person at the dispatch centre or the paramedic…that they need to be properly trained and it needs to be within their scope of practice,” she said.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report