Prescott-Russell ambulance calls from neighbouring jurisdictions are down, but the counties has yet to be paid for the more than $1.5-million in ambulance services used by the City of Ottawa during the past three years.

The counties paramedics responded to 956 calls in the City of Ottawa in 2018, a reduction from 1,161 in 2017. The 2018 calls in Ottawa cost the United Counties of Prescott-Russell $470,149; 2017 Ottawa calls cost the counties $571,001. In 2016, calls in Ottawa cost the counties $543,302. In all, more than $1.5 million in costs have been absorbed by UCPR when its ambulances responded to calls in Ottawa during the past three years.

And more ambulance costs are being racked up thanks to calls Prescott-Russell is responding to in the Cornwall-Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (SDG) territory. There were 524 calls in 2018, an increase from 480 in 2017. The 2017 calls cost Prescott-Russell $219,441 and the cost for 2018 was $245,269. Along with the $227,077 in calls for 2016, it has cost Prescott-Russell $691,787 to respond to calls in Cornwall-SDG during the past three years.

When the Ottawa and Cornwall-SDG costs are combined, the total is $2,276,238.

To put that in perspective, the ambulance budget for 2018 in Prescott-Russell was more than $8.2 million. A single ambulance call costs $599.68.

UCPR Emergency Services Director Michel Chrétien said nothing has changed in the effort to recover the costs from the neighbouring jurisdictions.

The calls are the result of when a Prescott-Russell ambulance takes a patient to a hospital in Ottawa or Cornwall-SDG and is then requested to respond to an emergency call within those territories.

Chrétien said the City of Ottawa is not even talking with Prescott-Russell now about the issue and the counties want the Ontario Ministry of Health to get involved. The ministry promises “seamless” land ambulance services across the province but Chretien said it is difficult to provide when only 50 per cent of the funding for that service comes from the province. The rest is funded by municipal governments, who are also responsible for providing the service.

The rule with ambulance response is that the closest unit goes to where help is needed, even if it is outside the normal jurisdiction.

Chrétien said the Prescott-Russell community is being put at risk of not having ambulances close by if they are busy responding to calls in neighbouring territories.

He explained that the inter-municipal response and cost situation for Prescott-Russell is one of the worst in Ontario because it neighbours Ottawa, a much larger centre where ambulance vehicles are usually kept closer to the centre of the city, leaving the peripheral areas under-serviced, which means calls there often get directed to Prescott-Russell ambulance services.

Ontario Works cases up

The Ontario Works (welfare) case load in Prescott-Russell increased slightly in November and December 2018.

There were 1,028 cases in November, an increase from 993 in October.  There were 1,009 cases in November, 2017.

For December, the amount increased to 1,030. The caseload for the same period in 2017 was 1,042.

UCPR Director of Social Services Anne Comtois-Lalonde said the minor increases are typical and there have been no major increases in the Ontario Works caseload recently.

“Through the year, you’re going to see some increases and decreases,” said Comtois-Lalonde.