There were no ambulances available to respond to emergency calls in the City of Ottawa 329 times in the first eight months of 2019.

And the General Manager for Emergency and Protective Services says overcrowding in hospital Emergency Departments is causing a blockage in the heart of emergency responses for paramedics.

Between January 1st and the end of August, there were 329 “Level Zero” occurrences totaling 138.4 hours.  The longest level zero occurrence was seven and a half hours in June.  Level zero is when there’s no ambulance units available to respond to emergency calls.

In response to an inquiry from Councillor Jenna Sudds, Anthony Di Monte says as a result of offload delays in hospital emergency rooms and increased call demand, “there are occasions where all the City’s ambulances are either on calls or waiting at a hospital to transfer patient care.”

Ottawa Paramedics spent 32,126 hours in offload delays at Ottawa area hospitals through the first seven months of 2019. That’s up 12.5 per cent from the same period in 2018.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service has several ongoing programs and initiatives aimed at alleviating offload delays, including a single Primary Care Paramedic to provide rapid response to emergency calls. Diversion Programs have also been established to help divert patients from area hospitals, including a community paramedic conducting home visits.

Di Monte writes “the root cause of the offload issue pertains to internal processes and operational standards of hospitals.” He adds offload delays are “fundamentally an issue related to hospital emergency room overcrowding and solutions to address this issue are within the purview of the hospital.”

Di Monte says the hospitals believe three items will help to alleviate offload delays:

  1. The Paramedic Service dedicating a community paramedic to the hospital that would care for up to five patients at a time
  2. Hospitals have indicated that fifty new Alternate Level of Care beds would be available this fall, creating additional capacity
  3. Hospitals want to revisit the Patient Priority System to clarify the intent. The main objective of the PPS agreement between the paramedic service and the hospitals was to ensure that critically ill patients, or patients requiring specialty health care services, receive the best possible care by transporting the patient to the most appropriate Emergency Department.