The Municipal Role in Paramedic Services During COVID-19 and Beyond
Paramedic services have been absolutely essential amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During this emergency situation, paramedics have been providing testing, transporting individuals to testing centres, and providing community paramedicine, among their regular emergency service responsibilities. Community paramedicine has been a crucial support for individuals during the pandemic, especially for isolated seniors and those living in remote areas.
In response to COVID-19, the provincial government provided pandemic pay to paramedics and other essential staff to encourage them to keep working and to ensure safe staffing levels across the province. AMO welcomes this funding and is monitoring the situation to see if more is needed given that those working in the sector have had to take on many new responsibilities, uncertainties, and risks during this time.
Prior to the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, AMO provided a submissions, AMO Response to the Ministry of Health’s Discussion Paper: Emergency Health Services Modernization and AMO Response to the Ministry of Health’s Discussion Paper: Public Health Modernization, to the provincial government’s Public Health and Emergency Health Services Modernization Consultations. Although the emergency situation put a pause on the consultation, AMO is asking for these consultations to resume once the initial COVID-19 wave has subsided. It would be a lost opportunity to not reflect on the local and provincial health care challenges exposed by the pandemic, and use these reflections to consider next steps in the modernization and restructuring of paramedic services.
AMO will also continue to ask for long anticipated improvements to the paramedic dispatch system, for which the Province has 100% funding responsibility. As well, AMO is calling on the provincial government to expand and fully fund community paramedicine across Ontario. While demand has been increasing for this service, no new provincial funding from the Ministry of Health has been provided. This is despite the fact that community paramedicine is a form of primary health care, which is a provincial responsibility.
Designated upper-tier and single-tier municipal governments co-fund and deliver essential paramedic services locally. In the north, ambulance services are primarily provided by District Social Service Administration Boards (DDSABs) financed by municipal governments. However, the property tax base is not the best funding source for a provincially regulated health service. Rising call volumes and costs are contributing to municipal fiscal challenges. Municipal governments currently contribute well beyond the 50-50 cost sharing arrangement.