Growing ambulance wait times in southeast Sask. worry local officials

A southeast Saskatchewan mayor is concerned about reduced ambulance services and increased wait times in the area.

Ambulances won’t be leaving the Kipling hospital often this month. Bill Sluser, the mayor of nearby Glenavon, said they have enough staff to only cover four 12-hour shifts, something that has been “going on for years.”

Communities that rely on the government-operated ambulance service have been trying to get through to Rural Health Minister Everett Hindley. Sluser said he must have called the legislative building 30 times, and only got through to the minister once.

“He said he’d get back to me in two days and to this day I haven’t heard from him or anybody from his office,” said Sluser.

The minister wasn’t available Friday to explain why he’s not available. The health ministry issued a statement that said the ministry “does not currently track ambulance service disruptions.”

“This situation in Kipling going unaddressed is completely unacceptable because we know it is impacting the whole area,” said NDP health critic Vicki Mowat.

Low pay for rural paramedics is being blamed. It’s $5an hour to be on stand-by, with extra pay only if a call comes in. The government said ambulances from other regions respond as required.

Sluser said there have been some situations where they made it “by the skin of (their) teeth.”

Nineteen rural communities with similar ambulance problems are currently banding together hoping to get their messages through to the government.