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Local paramedics warn of multiple 'code red' ambulance shortages

There were multiple code reds in the region on Monday
Waterloo Region Paramedic Services 3
File photo

The union representing paramedics in Waterloo Region is calling on the provincial government to step up support after multiple code reds earlier this week.

"We're beyond a critical point now," said Dave Bryant, co-vice-president of CUPE 5191.

On Monday, there were multiple incidents of code red, meaning zero ambulances were available.

In a code red, ambulances may be stuck on offload delays at hospitals, attending calls on the road, attending calls out of town, or transferring patients to facilities.

"It comes down to zero ambulance availability to respond to all priorities of 911 calls," said Bryant. 

The situation is also difficult to communicate to the public.

Bryant said CUPE 5191 tries to update its Twitter account, but word often doesn't get out.

"Unfortunately, how people find out is when they call 911 for an emergency and an ambulance doesn't show up," he said.

Part of what's causing the problems is Waterloo Region's aging and growing population, but Bryant points to the Ontario government for not ensuring there are enough resources.

"This used to be an ideal career for people. However now, the high rate of stress leaves, injuries, overtime is just not appealing to people. I'm not trying to stress for wage increases. This situation is way more critical than that," he said. 

"This situation comes to pure bodies and resources. We do not have what we need to keep our healthcare system functioning."

He said the province covers half of paramedic funding, but local councillors also need to lobby for more support.

"Serious high priority calls are being delayed due to a lack of ambulance availabilities and the Ontario people are the ones paying for it," Bryant said.