Regional patient transfer service plans fail, local service to continue

MANITOULIN – Plans to create a Northeastern Ontario regional non-urgent patient transfer (NUPT) service have failed and Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) will continue to provide the service on Manitoulin Island as it plans for the future of its own patient transfer model.

As reported in previous editions of The Expositor, health providers across Northeastern Ontario were working on a model to run a NUPT service with purpose-built vehicles to transport more patients than the current model on Manitoulin, which involves service using retired ambulances.

At the recent Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) board meeting on January 28, president and CEO Lynn Foster told the board that one of the partners could not commit to multi-year funding toward the proposed model. The remaining partners felt vulnerable about a potential funding shortfall and decided to abandon the plans.

“It was extremely disappointing because that was a multi-year project and we’ve invested a lot of time into it. Having said that, we’re focusing on what’s important for our area and our patients so we’re working with Espanola and the DSB to come up with a solution that fits for the three of us,” Ms. Foster said.

A NUPT service is important in areas such as Manitoulin because it allows for a more secure transfer of patients to hub hospitals that can provide more specialized care when required, such as Health Sciences North in Sudbury.

Previously, the DSB provided this work through paramedics and ambulances, which cut into the availability of emergency medical services.

The service to transport MHC and Espanola General Hospital patients to Sudbury will continue as-is for the time being, but the two hospitals and the DSB plan to implement a new model between the three partners for an April 1 launch.

DSB CAO Fern Dominelli told The Expositor that he is working with other DSBs in the Northeast to create a more comprehensive and co-ordinated approach over a wider area. Those talks are still ongoing, however, so he said his staff were working with the Manitoulin and Espanola hospitals to ensure they had a plan in place for the April 1 deadline.

“It looks very positive but there’s always the question of other things in play,” he said, noting that Algoma and Cochrane DSBs are also working on the planning process.