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County council hears more about ambulance code red issues

Ambulance code reds are far higher than usual this year
Councillor Diane Ballantyne, middle, asked what council can do to help drastically reduce the para-medicine code reds.

WELLINGTON COUNTY — As code reds saw a big increase in 2022, the paramedic chief outlined the ongoing struggle to eliminate them to county council last week.

A code red is when there are no ambulances in an area to respond to emergency calls. It typically happens when all paramedics are waiting to safely leave their patients at a hospital. The usual solution is to have an ambulance from a neighbouring region answer the emergency.

"From January 1 through the end of October 2022, Guelph Wellington Paramedic Service has had no ambulances available to respond (Code Red) on 50 different occasions. This compares to 4 episodes in all of 2021 and no episodes in 2020," Stephen Dewar, Guelph-Wellington paramedic service chief, wrote in a report to the social services committee.

Councillor Diane Ballantyne addressed Dewar at the Thursday county council meeting about what the council can do to reduce the code reds.

“Is there something that we could do, not that I want to make work for our new warden, but would it be helpful … to request a meeting with the MPP or for council to write a letter to express the urgency of the situation?” Ballantyne said.

Dewar then outlined for the council what is being done to eliminate code reds, such as the City of Guelph taking innitiative on the matter.

“The City of Guelph has undertaken, started the process of planning what advocacy and other work this city can do to support our service and we have discussed that through social services committee,” Dewar said.

The Guelph-Wellington paramedic service has also sought the support of the county.

“We’ve asked the county for assistance in that advocacy. So that planning is going on,” Dewar said.

GWPS is also trying to deal with the problem during their day to day work.

“We are obviously dealing with it at an operational level at our point,” Dewar said.

The mayor and Minister of Health are being brought into the struggle to solve the issue.

“Our mayor has met with the Minister of Health and we need to sort of support that, plan it and make it more effective. So that work is ongoing,” Dewar said.

There is an upcoming meeting for GWPS and the social services committee to think through the problem in hopes of finding solutions.  

“And I believe there is a meeting planned where we’re going to invite social service to sort of help us brainstorm the best actions,” Dewar said.

Jesse Gault is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.