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October 8, 2010

Multi-patient ambulances eyed for Canada province

CBS News

WINNIPEG, Canada — Manitobans from rural parts of the province coming to Winnipeg by ambulance are facing the prospect of being transported with less available paramedic care.

The province is looking into multi-patient ambulances that could transport up to four patients instead of the usual one or two.

But the number of paramedics travelling with them would remain the same as it is now: two, one driving and one tending to patients.

The prospect of having one paramedic looking after as many as four people worries the association representing emergency services providers.

"One paramedic with four patients? I am at a loss to even think that that's a good idea," said Eric Glass, chair of the Paramedic Association of Manitoba.

"I'm telling you as a paramedic, I'm not sure I want to be responsible for four people. I'm not sure how you're going to guarantee that patients are properly treated and assessed."

Brenda Gregory, Manitoba Health's acting director of provincial Emergency Medical Services, said the large vehicles would only carry patients who are in stable condition.

The aim of the larger vehicles is to cut costs and help reduce the strain on health budgets.

Every day, dozens of patients come to Winnipeg by ambulance to see specialists or get tests, and the cost of transporting them keeps going up, said Gregory.

In 2009, 21,000 patients took ambulances from rural areas in Manitoba to Winnipeg. The cost to the government was $10 million.

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