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January 13, 2011

Toronto's ambulance response time slower in 2010

The Toronto Star

TORONTO — Toronto's ambulances arrived at the scene of emergencies less quickly in 2010 than they did in 2009.

Ambulances responded within eight minutes and 59 seconds to 61.7 per cent of "Code 4" emergency calls in 2010, according to figures released during the municipal budget process. The 2009 figure was 64 per cent, down from 84 per cent in 1996.

Toronto Emergency Medical Services is "not comfortable" with its response performance, said Deputy Chief Wayne Vibert.

EMS has submitted an "informal" request to the city, along with its formal budget proposal, to hire 30 more paramedics; Vibert said it would benefit from 70 or more.

He attributed the continued decline in response times in part to a major increase in call volumes that has not been matched by an increase in staff. He also cited a systemic hospital "offload delay" problem that forces paramedics to idle in emergency rooms waiting for patients to be treated instead of responding to calls.

Time lost to offload delay, however, has dropped since the province began spending money in 2008 to have nurses receive patients from paramedics at high-delay hospitals.

The Code 4 classification covers such urgent medical issues as heart attacks, but only about a third of the calls classified as Code 4 when they are received turn out to be actual emergencies.

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