Paramedic services, UW in the dark

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Graphic by: Victoria Ross

In May, Doug Ford faced public and political push back when he revealed retroactive cuts to public health.

He proposed reducing funding for public health, daycare, and ambulance services.

In the announcement, he stated his plan  to reduce the current 59 public health centers to ten.

However, due to the public uproar following his proposal, Ford decided to cancel these cuts and requested Paramedic Services to revise their budgets.

Following Ford’s announcement, Stephen VanValkenburg, the Chief of Paramedic Services, region of Waterloo, stated that Paramedic Services is in a limbo state with the budget.

“[What the plan is for the future] would be a really good question, and I wish I could answer that question, but I really can’t, to be honest with you,” he said.

Van Valkenburg stated Paramedic Services needs more resources due to the increased number of code reds in the municipality.

A “code red” happens when there are too few ambulances for the amount of 911 calls that come through.

The addition of two ambulance vehicles in the last two years has made a difference, but hasn’t been enough to combat the issue.

VanValkenburg stated Waterloo’s ambulance services face a $1.2 million shortfall.

Paramedic services annual budget was frozen, leaving them in the dark about what was happening and preventing them from having enough information to develop a contingency plan.

UW Health Services did not respond to Imprint as to how they would handle the province’s cuts to public health and previously planned reduced funding for paramedic services.

On Aug. 19, the Ford government released an updated proposal which moves forward with cuts to public health and childcare.

However, unlike his earlier announcement, the budget for Paramedic Services is expected to  increase by 4 per cent this year, and increase more by 2021. The public health cuts will be introduced in Jan. 2020.

“We are increasing funding for land ambulance services by nearly 4 per cent this year and it will continue to increase into 2020,” Ford said.

Ford stated he listened to the public when he reduced provincial funding, but municipalities are left responsible for a greater portion of the cost of public health and daycare services.

“We recognize our government moved quickly when we came into office to address our inherited challenges, but we’ve listened to you,” Ford said.

“As our government tackles the big challenges ahead, the lines of communication will stay open. We’ll keep talking … and listening,” he said.

Public Health Waterloo says there are no plans to cut public health services.

Even though the cuts will take effect in less than five months, no decisions have been made by Public Health Waterloo at this time.