Ambulance calls up 25% in Sault Ste. Marie

Paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie are warning of an unsustainable workload, as it sees more calls than ever before.

According to the city's paramedics chief, ambulance calls have increased by 25 per cent since January, which is the largest increase he's seen in his career.

"It certainly impacts the paramedics, I mean they're busy, they're call-to-call, there's times when meals are missed or delayed," said Robert Rushworth. "We do bring in extra staff when we can, but it's not sustainable."

Rushworth said he's looking to increase education for the public on when to call 911. He's also working on a pitch to the Sault's Social Services Administration Board on increasing emergency medical services.

"If we could get more options of where the patients can go, or more healthcare options, stuff like that is big picture, more long-term fixes," he said.

A consultant firm's report to social services in 2016 said the city would need to increase its ambulance operations by this year, predicting the increase in calls.

"Because we hadn't been seeing that when we set the budget in the fall of last year, it was not something that we included in the budget," said Luke Dufour, social services board chair and city councillor.

"It was in our efforts to try and save the levy as much as possible, but now three quarters of the way into the year, the exact prediction has come true."

Dufour said the report cited the city's aging population as one factor in ambulance calls increasing.

He said the ongoing addictions crisis is also catching up, making the job of paramedics more challenging.

"A lot of the upcoming resources that are coming online for that issue are still about a year away, so we need to look at doing everything we can in the short-term," Dufour said.

The social services administration board will be meeting Sept. 16, where Rushworth will make his recommendations.