A potential relocation of community paramedicine offices led to a discussion around paramedic service inequalities in Muskoka.
In a report to The District of Muskoka Health Services Committee, it was announced that a proposed relocation of the community paramedicine offices to the Port Carling Paramedic station would no longer take place. The report states that this decision is to ensure that the paramedic station remains within its established budget costs.
The program aims to keep people in their homes longer by assisting to keep them healthy and connect them with services that were otherwise unknown to them.
The report notes that these cost-saving measures will bring noticeable cost savings to the station. The variance in costs for the construction is estimated to be between $363,496 and $1,364,123 with final construction costs estimated between $4,549670 and $3,583,570. The report states that the staff have worked with contractors to reduce costs, with the most significant change being the elimination of community paramedicine offices.
But the decision to not relocate the community paramedicine offices to Port Carling led to a discussion about who gets serviced by these paramedicine services. Muskoka Lakes Councillor Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa stated that many of these services are not available to residents in Muskoka Lakes. She went on to say that she only wants the residents in Muskoka Lakes to have the same services that other towns in the District do.
“Quite frankly, I will tell you as a taxpayer and a resident in this area I just feel slighted,” Nishikawa said.
Nishikawa cited Minett as an example of a community that currently does not receive community paramedicine services.
“I was told some years back that those areas were not serviced because they’re too far away from those ambulance stations,” Nishikawa said.
The District Commissioner of Health Services Norm Barrette disagreed with Nishikawa’s statements and claimed that relocation of the community paramedicine offices would have no impact on District-wide coverage.
“Community paramedicine is mobile, and it’s delivered across the district,” Barrette said.
According to Barrette the potential relocation was because the current office location in Gravenhurst has capacity constraints that require additional construction. A key reason that the Port Carling option did not move forward was that the year-to-year funding model of the community paramedicine program made staff advise against future capital funding.
District Chief of Paramedic Services Jeff McWilliam also stated that the office location of the community paramedicine services would not impact access. McWilliam also stated that access to these services is determined by criteria, specifically long-term care that is a risk of readmissions to hospital, rather than location. McWilliam added that these services are bound by the borders of the District of Muskoka and any communities outside these boundaries will not have access.
District staff estimate that a contract to build the Port Carling Paramedic Station will be awarded in January, with final costs and details put before the committee by February.
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