Paramedic Kelly King welcomes the prospect of additional staff. DON RICKERS

$8.2 million earmarked for Niagara EMS

Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS) just got a nice Easter present: $8.2 million in provincial funding to expand community paramedicine for long-term care in the Region.

Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff delivered the good news last Tuesday at the EMS station in Fonthill, located behind the Pelham Fire Department Station #1, at 170 Highway 20 West. He was flanked by Niagara Region Chair Jim Bradley, Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin, and Niagara EMS Chief Kevin Smith.

Oosterhoff said that the initiative, “will help more seniors on long-term care wait-lists live in the comfort of their own homes for longer periods. It will allow access to health services 24/7 through online supports, provide non-emergency home visits and in-home testing procedures, and enhance the connection between seniors and their families and community supports.” Oosterhoff noted that Niagara EMS has 54,000 patient contacts each year, with its ambulances and emergency vehicles racking up some 2.4 million kilometres on Regional roadways.

Smith said the additional funding will allow for recruitment of about a dozen more paramedics, as well as other frontline health professionals, such as mental health nurses and occupational therapists, over the next few months. He referred to his paramedics as “an exceptional group of individuals who perform in unique situations and circumstances and under dire conditions at times.”

Smith said that the process of transitioning from a reactive to proactive type of organization started in 2019, with a “model of care that embraces mobile, integrated health,” and has provided “tremendous value for Niagara.”

Bradley thanked the provincial government for the “substantial investment being made here in Niagara,” and said that the funding will enhance Niagara’s EMS as a “model of community-based healthcare.”

Paramedic Kelly King was on hand to describe what the additional funding will provide at the grassroots level. She said she generally works a 12-hour shift, commencing at 9 AM, and responds to all 9-1-1 emergencies. Some of her calls can take minutes, others hours. Niagara EMS currently has two platoons of five medics each. King is stationed at the fleet centre, located at Glendale Avenue near the QEW, but responds to calls throughout the Region.

“There have been gaps in care at night that we’ve been trying to cover in the morning,” said King. “But they often end up calling 9-1-1, and are sent to hospital when there’s an easier fix when a paramedic is available. So the additional staffing will be a definite improvement.”

She also noted that the funding will allow more time for training.

“It’s very exciting to be able to spend time with patients and really invest in their support system,” said King.