Toronto paramedics union issues code red as patients wait up to 8 hours for care

The lack of ambulances available to respond to calls on Monday led to Toronto Paramedic Services asking for help, according to the union. Mark McAllister reports.

In what’s believed to have been a Toronto first, paramedics outside the city were called in to help during a code red alert on Monday.

The volume of calls was so high the Toronto paramedics union says the service couldn’t keep up. Mike Merriman, chair of the Cupe Local Paramedic Unit (TCEU Local 416), says it got so bad that some patients waited up to eight hours for an ambulance.

“It’s becoming a daily event, but that day was just so bad,” Merriman said, noting that no local ambulances were available on Monday.

Merriman also tells CityNews 680 that Toronto Paramedic Services were trying to fill the void, but only 16 people applied for 60 open spots, with many preferring to work outside of the city.

“I’ve never seen it get to a point where they have had to call in surrounding municipalities to service calls that we can’t,” Merriman added.

TPS says busy hospitals to blame for code red

A spokesperson for Toronto Paramedic Services says, “There are no borders for ambulances,” adding that the closest ambulance is always chosen to respond to high-priority calls “regardless of location.”

Toronto Parademic Services blamed Monday’s code red on busy hospitals, but Merriman says the hospitals were in good shape at the time.

“They always love to blame the hospitals… but that wasn’t the situation the other day there.”

The union says the number of staff available in a growing city like Toronto is a problem.

Despite a $21 billion increase in the budget earlier this year, not enough paramedics have been hired. When asked about this, Toronto Paramedic Services said its workers will shift from low-priority calls to high-priority matters when necessary.

“During busier periods like those experienced on Monday, paramedics are routinely diverted,” the spokesperson said. “Higher priority calls will always be responded to first.”

Merriman disclosed that in one incident this week, an elderly woman in her 80s fell and needed care after fracturing her arm.

“She waited hours on the floor for an ambulance,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”

In addition to recent wait times for paramedic services, there have been response issues with 9-1-1 calls, which Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow mentioned as a priority during her election campaign but has not addressed since taking office.

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