Towns say Central Health needs to tweak its regional ambulance plan
Two local mayors are expressing their concerns about changes Central Health made to their ambulance service in the region back in October.
The Health Authority announced a number of measures last year that they termed "operational improvements."
As part of that the Baie Verte Peninsula Regional Health Centre in Baie Verte and Green Bay Health Centre in Springdale would begin sharing ambulance services between the two facilities.
At the time, Melinda Noel, Director of Health Services at Green Bay Health Centre said the biggest changes were in how the hospitals handled staffing.
"Two PCPs are required on the ambulance for an emergency," Noel explained to the Nor'wester in October. "For example, if the ambulance in Springdale got called to an emergency and, while they were gone, we got another call, we would have had to seek out our other employees on their days off to cover off that second emergency."
She also said that with the changes, they had the option of the third team of PCPs, which would be stationed in either Baie Verte or Springdale at any given time.
"If the third team is in Springdale and the ambulance in Baie Verte is called on an emergency, then they will immediately go to Baie Verte to cover off that area," she said, adding. "We'll continue to have one ambulance stationed in each area at all times, just as before."
Noel explained that there were a number of contingency plans in place that would ensure coverage would always be there, for both areas. She said in rare cases where all ambulances are dispatched, the backup ambulance would be stationed at the Baie Verte junction until the other ambulance arrives back to the base.
Baie Verte Mayor, Clar Brown, says that scenario has happened nearly 40 times since the changes came into effect last Fall.
Brown says the fact that residents in his community and the region can call for an ambulance and not know where it's coming from is disconcerting.
He raised the issue at the pre-budget Consultations in Springdale last Friday.
"One of the big things right now is that there are no facilities at Baie Verte Junction anymore for the paramedics to use," he said.
When the plan was originally put in place, Central Health had an agreement with the hotel at the junction for their staff to use their facilities if necessary. That business has since shut down, and Brown says if the paramedics need to use a restroom, for instance, they have to travel to Springdale Junction.
"If it's still necessary to have the ambulance at a central location, then they should find a suitable half-way location and establish it with facilities," he said.
He also suggested additional staff would be beneficial.
"Right now each health centre has two ambulances and five or six personnel," he said. With only three ambulance staff working at each facility at any given time, hiring additional staff to make more workers available is another possible solution. "We're suggesting that Central Health should consider hiring additional personnel, and have a staff of seven at each facility," told the pre-budget hearings.
Mayor Harvey Tizzard says his council has also been fielding complaints and concerns from citizens.
"We've received a number of concerns as a council about the changes since they've been in place," he said, adding council has been talking to Central Health over the past months about the changes.
"We've written Central Health to express our concern, and we've had meetings with them as well," he said.
Tizzard added the town is planning a meeting with the Health Authority as a full council soon, in order for all members to hear firsthand some of the explanations surrounding the ambulance service.
Asked if Springdale's council had any suggestions for Central Health on how to improve the service, Tizzard didn't offer any.
"Right now we're just listening," he said.