Paramedics say Winnipeg is short on ambulances.

With the Winnipeg civic election coming in October, a number of candidates, including the incumbent, have begun to circle the issue of public pre-hospital care. The Winnipeg Paramedic’s Union says that staffing levels in the city have been dangerously low for some time, even citing three cases where victims have died because, they claim, the ambulance system was too overworked to respond promptly. They union is calling for an increase in the number of ambulances on the road and crews to operate them. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the front-runner of eight challengers for Katz’s Mayoral seat, has promised more ambulances if she is elected saying, “We have a crisis with not enough ambulances able to respond in a timely basis when someone is in desperate need.”

Mayor Katz says that he has not heard of any deaths resulting from delayed response and pointed to the inclusion of a paramedic in the Fire Service’s crews who often respond to medical emergencies. Factoring for the inclusion of these fire paramedics, the mayor claims, response time for medical emergencies is 4 minutes or less, one of the best in the country. He concedes, however, that ambulance crews are often held up at hospital where they must have doctors sign off on their patients before they can return to duty as available for another call. He says adding more paramedics to the system is not the solution to that problem. Mayor Katz characterized the paramedic union’s stance as a gambit to use the election to enhance their negotiating position for contract renewals. “It could be a good way to help their negotiations,” he said. CBC News

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