FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Blaine Higgs, People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin and Health Minister Hugh Flemming, announced today fundamental reforms to address Ambulance New Brunswick response times.
“Our priority is protecting the health and safety of residents,” said Higgs. “We were elected with a mandate to improve paramedic service in New Brunswick. It’s time to work with all partners to address this once and for all.”
Ambulance New Brunswick will create a dedicated non-emergency transfer service for hospital patients. The dedicated transfer service will allow the organization to maintain its strategic focus where most needed and improve emergency response times.
The new service will allow Ambulance New Brunswick to pre-identify the patient’s language of choice and deploy staff with the linguistic capabilities the situation requires. This change will enable it to convert 40 casual paramedics to permanent full-time status, while continuing to respect its obligations under the Official Languages Act.
The province has directed Ambulance New Brunswick to fully implement the restructured transfer system.
“No longer will desperate families be forced to load severely ill and injured loved ones in the backs of their own vehicles hoping to get to a hospital before it is too late because no ambulance is available when it is needed,” said Austin.
Transfers make up about 30 per cent of Ambulance New Brunswick’s current call volume. Last year there were 112,000 calls for transfers, up 18 per cent from five years ago.
Separating transfers from the 911 emergency response system will allow for better co-ordination and reduce delays in both systems. It will also provide for greater flexibility in hiring and help improve the organization’s ability to recruit and retain paramedics.
Ambulance New Brunswick will soon launch an online accountability website which will make available response time performance and vehicle downtime statistics each month.
The Department of Health will continue to review a Green Paper which outlined 26 options, as well as recommendations made earlier this fall by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, and an adjudicator’s decision this spring, with the intention of adopting measures which ensure ambulances remain on the road.
“Through hard work and a commitment to working together to tackle the issues before us, we can implement a solution that meets the needs of New Brunswickers,” said Flemming.
These changes being implemented by Ambulance New Brunswick are expected to address ongoing challenges with ambulance services. For that reason, the provincial government will consult with CUPE with the intention of withdrawing an ongoing judicial review within 30 days. The adjudicator’s decision was issued last spring in response to a complaint by the union representing paramedics, CUPE Local 4848.
“The collective goal of the fundamental changes we are announcing today is to ensure, once and for all, that ambulances are not parked when trained, qualified paramedics are available,” said Higgs.