Editorial: Cut the red tape for new ambulances

The Cornwall and SDG Paramedic Service has a procurement problem – sourcing replacement ambulances. Members of the Joint Liaison Committee – which oversees the Shared Services agreement between the City of Cornwall and SDG Counties – heard from the head of the paramedic service Bill Lister that buying new ambulances in a timely and affordable fashion is a problem that may affect quality of service in the future.

During Lister’s presentation, members of the committee heard that the CSDG Paramedic Service has a backlog of three replacement ambulances, and that the cost per ambulance has increased by $80,000 per ambulance since the Pandemic. This region is not alone in its woes over buying new ambulances. Most land ambulance services in Ontario have sounded the alarm bells about the higher cost and procurement issues. Lister laid the blame for this on the province. He is correct.

Lister told the meeting that the three companies that sold ambulances to the Ontario market merged. That company also sells to other jurisdictions, domestic and international. The problem lies with requiring an Ontario-licenced professional engineer to certify equipment for use in the province – including ambulances. Those regulations are set by the Ministry of Health. While there are more manufacturers who could serve the Ontario market, none, according to Lister, want to jump through the extra hoops and red tape.

Government procurement issues is nothing new, especially in the last four years. Supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic and now the economic climate have driven up procurement costs everywhere. Even a plan to recondition existing ambulances within the CSDG fleet has issues as vehicle purchasing involves long delays and increased costs. SDG Counties and other municipalities order replacement large vehicles like snow plows a year or more in advance now. And the paramedic service can ill-afford having a portion of its existing fleet out of service.

In a statement to The Leader, the Ministry of Health said it is not responsible for purchasing deals or negotiating prices. Ministry representatives did say that funding was increased via its Land Ambulance Service Grant, and that the local service received a nine per cent increase in 2023. But the ministry passed the buck when it comes to removing red tape, saying that the paramedic service was welcome to bring any information to the province. The fact is, paramedic services have been lobbying the Ontario government for these changes for years.

The Ford Government has made great prognostications about reducing red tape and increasing competition in the province. It also has said that it needs to lower prices, especially in health care. Ministry of Health officials should pay attention to the lobbying from paramedic services and act accordingly by cutting red tape. It is not just a money decision, but one that affects the quality of health care available.

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