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Government seeks ideas on new ambulance and community paramedicine legislation

Wayne Young, manager of air and road ambulance services for the Department of Health and Community Services, addresses participants Monday taking part in public consultations on the drafting of new emergency health services and community paramedicine legislation for the province.
Wayne Young, manager of air and road ambulance services for the Department of Health and Community Services, addresses participants Monday taking part in public consultations on the drafting of new emergency health services and community paramedicine legislation for the province. - Glen Whiffen

The provincial government began a string of public consultations Monday to help inform the drafting of new emergency health services and community paramedicine legislation for the province.

The first session was held at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s Monday afternoon, where participants sat at round tables and took part in what is called a deliberate dialogue approach. Each table had a facilitator who took notes on the discussion and the ideas put forward by those sitting around that table.

According to a news release, dedicated emergency medical services legislation will bring Newfoundland and Labrador in line with other jurisdictions, and increase accountability and establish provincial ambulance performance standards.

Consultations will be held in Corner Brook on Tuesday, Grand Falls-Windsor on Wednesday, Gander on Thursday, and in both Clarenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday.

“Maintaining the integrity of ambulance services in our province is paramount,” Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie said in the release.

“I am pleased to begin this consultation process so that we may hear from the public about what is important to them.”

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only jurisdiction in Canada without legislation governing the delivery of ambulance services. In 2012, the department engaged an external consultant, Fitch and Associates, to conduct a review of the program.

In its 2013 report, Fitch indicated numerous issues with the program that included a lack of consolidated legislation.

Fitch expressed concern that multiple pieces of legislation and multiple organizations were responsible for different elements of the program.

Wayne Young, manager of air and road ambulance services for the Department of Health and Community Services, reminded participants Monday that this week’s consultation is focusing specifically on ambulance and community paramedicine legislation.

“This is not a consultation on service delivery or how the ambulance program will be structured or organized in the years to come,” he said.

“This is specifically about legislation and how the program is governed.

“It is also not about the regulation of paramedics. The Department of Health and Community Services is looking at changing how paramedics are regulated, and moving as the Fitch report said to self-regulation, but that is a different piece of legislation than what we are discussing here today.”

The provincial road ambulance program provides emergency and routine (inter-facility) patient transfers.

Some key statistics for the program include:

• Approximately 80,000 transports were completed in fiscal year 2017-18;

•The Public Utilities Board has issued 61 licences to operate road ambulance services in the province — of which 13 are operated by regional health authorities, 26 are operated privately, and 22 are operated by communities (not-for-profit).

• The 61 operators receive funding from the provincial government to operate a combined total of 179 ambulances throughout the province.

• There are about 830 ambulance professionals employed by the 61 operators.

• The provincial budget for the program was approximately $61.5 million in fiscal year 2017-18.

The department says it is envisioned the consultations will lead to proposed new legislation that will consolidate responsibility for the program, in its entirety, to Health and Community Services.

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