Spinning ambulance funding

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It is irksome when the Ontario government – or any government for that matter – seemingly takes credit for spending money it has collected from taxpayers. Case in point was Laurie Scott’s Sept. 28 press release stating Ontario was investing nearly $3 million for annual land ambulance services in Haliburton County. 

Sure, Ontario may be diverting just over $2.9 million to the Highlands’ land ambulance service, but it’s hardly the source of funding. 

That money has come from you and I, not Laurie Scott and the government of Ontario. 

These announcements also appear to be misleading. It’s splashy to say the province is pumping nearly $764 million across the province into land ambulances. However, the Land Ambulance Service Grant or LASG came about after the province downloaded the very costly land ambulance service onto municipalities. 

The LASG funding amounts to a 50-50 cost share with the County of Haliburton, for instance. So, you’ve contributed to that part of the equation, too. The press release does at least acknowledge it’s annual funding. The grant is based on the previous year’s council-approved operating budgets. 

The press release says the province’s grant is to help with increased cost pressures in emergency departments. 

We’re not sure how that translates here in the County. It appears a lack of health care professionals – not paramedics – is putting the squeeze on our ERs. Scott’s release goes on to say the money will support the hiring of additional paramedics, wage and cost of living adjustments, and general ambulance services operation to meet the needs of the local community.

The hyperbole also talks about the government’s commitment to building a modern, sustainable, and connected emergency health system that supports every Ontarian on their health care journey. It goes on to tout how it supports the Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery, to ease pressure on our health care system, hire more health care workers and provide the right care in the right place to Ontarians. 

That’s some spin. Don’t get us wrong. There’s no doubt the Haliburton County Paramedic Service welcomes the funding. Money last year did help them to staff the Tory Hill ambulance station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. 

Further, the Ontario government is using your tax dollars to continue to fund 100 per cent of costs for Central Ambulance Communications Centres to dispatch ambulances. 

It’s too bad a lot of our ambulance time is being taken up transferring patients to Lindsay and Peterborough for CT scan appointments, and then being diverted to outof-County calls. Maybe next year, along with the LASG money, the province can throw in a CT scanner for the Highlands. So, lest one gets caught up in the spin; it’s annual funding, it’s nothing new. 

And it’s about $39,000 less than the local service budgeted for. They’ll have to look to make up that shortfall in other areas of the service.