Rural health care pressured?

Doug Ford’s cuts to local paramedic services may put rural families at risk

NDP MPP John Vanthof (Postmedia file photo)

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Doug Ford’s decision to cut the majority of Ontario’s local paramedic services may put lives at risk in rural Ontario, said NDP Deputy Leader John Vanthof during question period Wednesday.

Ford is cutting the number of ambulance services from 52 to just 10.

“Communities across Ontario were blindsided by the government’s surprise decision to scrap 49 of the provinces 59 local paramedic services,” said Vanthof, NDP critic for Rural Development.

“Paramedics tell us they need more local control, but the government plan is to scrap local service. This kind of centralization could mean that when you call an ambulance, it’ll have to come from much further away. It could mean that there are fewer ambulances for already under-served rural areas. In could mean longer waits in emergency situations, and we know that can have dangerous, or even deadly consequences.”

Vanthof said he agrees with Michel Chretien, director of emergency services in Prescott-Russell. “[It] really scares me, where the rural communities will be less well served than the urban communities,” said Chretien.

Vanthof and the Ontario NDP say the Doug Ford government should not go ahead with its cuts.

“Even if you look in urban Ontario, like in Hamilton, paramedics say a plan to disband and amalgamate municipal ambulance services would be a ‘kick in the teeth’,” Vanthof said, quoting Hamilton paramedics union representative Mario Posteraro, whose city has already been dealing with ‘code zero’ events when there is one or fewer ambulances available in the city.

“If urban areas are already struggling with lack of ambulance service, people in rural Ontario have a right to be worried, because in a lot of parts of rural Ontario, we don’t even have 911 service,” said Vanthof. “This scheme is just too risky for rural families.”

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