Hospital waits prompting a shortage of ambulances
CTV Southwestern Ontario
Published Friday, March 4, 2011 6:39PM EST
A new report has found that 'code red' situations, where no ambulances are available, are on the rise in Waterloo Region.
In 2010, ambulances were delayed at local hospitals more than 4,000 times, which is equivalent to one ambulance being parked for 241 days.
But as overcrowding issues at hospitals grow, ambulances are increasingly stuck lining up outside waiting to transfer patients before they can respond to another emergency.
Mark Karjaluoto, director of communications at Grand River Hospital says, "It's something that we have to continue working with Waterloo Region's EMS about. It has been an issue in recent years."
The report released Friday finds that ‘code reds' are now happening up to 17 times a month, and it's taking anywhere from one minute to two hours before an ambulance becomes available.
The data was released as part of the EMS master plan that is expected to be presented to a regional committee next week.
It's a situation that didn't even exist until recently. And the numbers have likely gotten worse, as the data released represents the last six months of 2010.
The first couple of months of 2011 have been even busier, with local hospitals dealing with unusual overcrowding since January.
Cambridge Memorial Hospital says patient visits are up 20 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Both Grand River Hospital (GRH) and St. Mary's General Hospital have also seen patient visits spike about ten per cent, forcing them to cancel surgeries and open extra beds.
Don Shilton, president of St. Mary's, says "It's really hard to tell. We assess every day as it comes, and we haven't had to reschedule any surgeries in the last month."
Both GRH and St. Mary's received funding last year for an 'offloading nurse' to help relieve the backlog of ambulances.
But it doesn't appear to be enough, with the number of ambulance delays up seven per cent, and the length of time they must wait up 20 per cent.
Shilton says the position is helpful, but "the challenge is that it's not a 24 hour a day position, so it's helpful when the position is covered, we cover it for a ten hour shift."