Sault hiring more paramedics as calls for service spike
Sault Ste. Marie's social services board has approved a plan to hire 10 new paramedics. The move is in response to a sharp increase in the number of calls to the city's paramedic services in recent months.
Robert Rushworth, chief of paramedic services, said he hasn't seen this much of an increase in calls for the service in the last 20 years. He said it's a trend being seen everywhere, with a number of factors driving it.
"There's the mental health side of it, there's the opioid crisis, there's the need for medical care in the community, there is limited resources, we have the one emergency department," said Rushworth. He said the 10 paramedics will be hired at a cost of roughly $1.3 million.
Doesn't fully address problem
City Coun. Sandra Hollingsworth, who is also a registered nurse, said she applauds hiring more paramedics. But, Hollingsworth said it doesn't address the whole problem -- namely a lack of resources in hospital emergency rooms.
"How many staff members do they have? Do they have the capacity to accept these patients from the paramedics? You might be overloading again the ER with more patients coming," she said.
She said a short-staffed emergency room poses problems for paramedics, since they can't simply drop off the patient and go to another call.
"It could take a half an hour, it could take an hour or more," she said. "Basically that paramedic cannot go to another call until that patient is in the care of the emergency room staff member."
Hollingsworth is calling on the Ministry of Health to provide more support to overwhelmed hospital emergency departments. For his part, Rushworth said the new paramedics will provide relief to current staff who have had a particularly busy summer.