Chief of Essex-Windsor EMS reacts to 'Code Blacks' locally

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CUPE Local 2974, which represents local paramedics says there were multiple 'Code Blacks' in Essex county over the weekend. 

The union directed a statement on social media Saturday night towards Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ontario's Health Minister Sylvia Jones, claiming paramedics are overworked and understaffed.

Despite recent challenges, the Chief of Essex-Windsor EMS says they have moved towards improving paramedic resources. 

Bruce Krauter says recent Code Blacks are due to staff absences. 

"We've just brought on another 12 full-time enhancements to the service and going through recruitment of part-time staff," says Krauter.  "We do have some absences, a spike in absences as of late due to illness or unscheduled absences, but we're handling those."

He says strains to the system are caused in part by the backlog of people who didn't get health care during the pandemic. 

"We do communications strategies of people seeking primary care to seek their primary care provider or an urgent care centre, they don't necessarily have to go to the emergency rooms," he says.  "We're trying to make sure the flow is moving better so the emergency rooms and EMS are being used for emergency situations."

Krauter says there are different ways the Essex-Windsor EMS can help in a circumstance where there is a Code Black. 

"When we go into Code Black there are mitigating circumstances we do to make sure the public has an ambulance available to respond such as, we cue low acuity type of calls," says Krauter.  "So those aren't life and limb or life and death may be put into the cue and wait for an ambulance to respond."

A Code Black is when the volume of calls outpaces paramedic resources.