'Very scary situation': Fewer ambulances in Montreal this weekend due to staff shortage

Paramedics in Greater Montreal are stretched particularly thin this weekend, with nearly half the territory's ambulances parked due to a staffing shortage.

With 26 ambulances in Montreal and Laval not in use, Urgences Sante said calls are being prioritized according to their urgency.

"Calls where it's deemed that the person's life is not in immediate danger or there's no immediate risk that the person's health is going to deteriorate -- for those types of calls, there can be a delay," said supervisor Vanessa Grillo.

Managers are filling in, and paramedics from other regions are also helping out -- but that's only a temporary fix.

The bigger issue is finding and training more people to do the job.

"Paramedics for the last year were on strike," Grillo explained, which caused internships to be paused.

"It all weighs pretty heavily on paramedics," she said.

Retired paramedic Hal Newman runs the page The Last Ambulance, a journalism project from The Rover.

He said working when there's not enough staff is exhausting.

"My night would look like a living hell in terms of nonstop response, call after call after call, extended response times," he said.

Newman worries someone will fall through the cracks.

"We've all been raised with the idea that when we call 911, help is coming -- and now that's in question and that's a very scary situation."

Urgences Sante says it's doing what it can to recruit staff.

In the meantime, on this hot summer weekend, it's warning people to stay hydrated and drink responsibly.

Anyone in need of non-urgent medical care is asked to call 811 or go to the emergency room.