Cuts to paramedic services in Chaudière-Appalaches spark worry among locals

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الأربعاء 25 يناير 2023 08:05 مساءً

An ambulance leaves the garage in Armagh, Que. The municipality is one of several that will be helping out other communities in the region between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting this March because of cuts to ambulatory care. (Guylaine Bussière/Radio-Canada. - image credit)

An ambulance leaves the garage in Armagh, Que. The municipality is one of several that will be helping out other communities in the region between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting this March because of cuts to ambulatory care. (Guylaine Bussière/Radio-Canada. - image credit)

Some locals in the Chaudière-Appalaches region are speaking out as ambulance service in several municipalities is facing potential cuts this spring.

A petition launched Jan. 21 collected more than 5,000 signatures in two days following proposed changes in the ambulance schedules.

Although this new model has yet to be officially adopted by the health authority, several towns could only have a local paramedic working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. by March 31.

The health authority for Chaudière-Appalaches said the changes could benefit both citizens and paramedics.

But Sophie Brouillette, who started the petition, says it is the wrong decision.

"There is a lot of anger, indignation and incomprehension. It's as if they are forcing us not to be sick, feel ill or have a car accident between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.," said Brouillette.

Although the health authority is still in discussion with elected officials in the affected areas, the communities of Saint-Just-de-Bretenières, Lac-Frontière, Sainte-Lucie-de-Beauregard, Saint-Paul-de-Montminy, Sainte-Apolline-de-Patton, Saint-Fabien-de-Panet and Saint-Magloire-de-Bellechasse would have to be served at night by Armagh, Sainte-Justine and Saint-Pamphile — which each only have one ambulance.

'Rolling the dice'

Paramedics estimate response times will double.

"This is a very poor risk-management calculation," said Jean-François Gagné, a labour relations assistant for the federation for prehospital workers in Quebec.

"These people are at risk for a long period of time — 12 hours. It's a bit like rolling the dice when you need the ambulance."

According to data compiled by Radio-Canada, it will take an average 38 minutes for the ambulance to arrive in several municipalities — with crews having to travel an average of 49 kilometres to reach their destination.

In the best case scenario, if a call comes from Saint-Paul-de-Montminy and the Armagh ambulance is available on the spot, it will still take 18 minutes for the paramedics to travel the 22.4 km that separate the two municipalities.

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For communities farther away, it could take over an hour.

Every minute counts

But in an emergency situation, every minute counts.

"In 18 years, I've had about 10 resuscitations. The only common thread is response time. All of my resuscitations were done within 10 minutes. That's the critical moment when you have to intervene," said Gagné.

Guylaine Bussière/Radio-Canada

Guylaine Bussière/Radio-Canada

In Armagh, with only one vehicle available, ambulance providers are concerned about serving both the local population and neighbouring communities.

"In this area, it takes a long time to go on a call and then go to the hospital," says Marc Bouchard, director of operations for Dessercom Ambulances.

"It can take about 3.5 hours. We [answer calls] 330 times a year between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. During this time, it is not a vehicle from Armagh that will cover [our community], but one that will leave from even further away."

Suzie Bernier, the mayor of Armagh, notes that many citizens are worried. She can attest to the importance of having an ambulance nearby.

Radio-Canada

Radio-Canada

"One of my boys, 18 years ago, he was six weeks old and he was in cardiorespiratory arrest in his crib. I was lucky enough to have the Armagh paramedics," she said.

"They arrived within two minutes, those two minutes saved my son. He has no after-effects and will be going to university."

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