Concerns raised with changes proposed by province that could see more costs downloaded

KAGAWONG—Billings council has joined other municipalities in voicing its concerns with the changes being looked at by the province to the Ambulance Act and Fire Protection and Prevention Act, seeking input and participation in the deliberations. Council is also concerned the changes could mean more costs downloaded on municipalities.

“It affects all of us (municipalities),” said Billings Councillor Barb Erskine at a council meeting last week, in which council reviewed concerns raised by council for the Municipality of Killarney and the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) concerning proposed changes to two provincial acts which would affect how some patients are treated and transported during medical calls. She felt the issue and the motion should be forwarded to the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) for its consideration of support, and council agreed.

“They had a motion at FONOM on this same issue and it was passed there as well,” stated Billings Mayor Austin Hunt.

“The municipality of Killarney share the same concerns as AMO regarding proposed changes to the Ambulance Act and Fire Protection and Prevention Act which are to be tabled at Queen’s Park this fall,” wrote Candy K. Beauvais, clerk-treasurer of the Municipality of Killarney in a letter on behalf of council  dated September 19, to Lynn Dollin and the AMO.

Killarney council passed a resolution that advises AMO “that we share their concerns regarding the proposed changes to the Ambulance Act and the Fire Protection and Prevention Act which are set to be tabled at Queen’s Park in the fall. Further, the province is seeking two municipalities to participate in pilot projects funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. The Municipality of Killarney appeals to AMO to request that the province include rural northern municipalities as a participant in the pilot projects. Further the proposed changes may result in the province saving and municipalities experiencing  additional downloading for some of the costs associated with modifications to the acts.” 

“Therefore the council for the municipality of Killarney hereby request that AMO keep all municipalities informed of this matter so that all stakeholders have input into these proposed changes which may result in additional costs to our municipalities (such as increased training, legal liability etc.”). A CBC News article provided by Killarney to Billings council notes that AMO is concerned about changes to the Ambulance Act and the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. One change aims to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits by having paramedics take patients with minor injuries to family doctors and community clinics. The law currently requires patients to be taken to hospital only.

Another change could see firefighters with paramedic training be able to respond to minor injury calls, provide medical care on fire trucks and provide symptom relief in some higher priority calls.

There is a also a question of who ends up footing the bill for the costs. While the province may save some money from fewer emergency room visits, other costs could be off-loaded onto municipalities.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care projects the cost of ambulance systems will increase by $300 million to $1.9 billion over five years, between 2015 and 2020.

Land ambulance costs are shared 50-50 with the province currently, but municipalities cover 100 percent of the cost of AMO says. Potential costs could include increased training for paramedics and firefighters to increased legal liability. AMO says if it is going to cost municipalities more money to follow the new regulations, then that should be covered 100 percent by the province.