North Bay City Councillors voted unanimously to pass a motion that Councillor Mac Bain says is about protecting the municipality against a loss of autonomy in emergency services staffing decisions.
Councillor Mike Anthony says that the danger that the province could transfer its share of the operating costs of the ambulance service onto the city is real.
The issue surrounds possible pilot programs in which firefighters, certified as paramedics, would treat patients while on duty with the fire department. The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has amended the Ambulance Act and permitted the change as part of Bill 160, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act. Bain says that if the amendment stands, the “risks are dire.”
This is where Anthony sees the potential financial risk to the municipality. Currently, paramedics operate on a 50/50 funding formula split between the province and the city. A move to have firefighters act as paramedics, Anthony says, puts the burden on the taxpayers of North Bay, who fund the fire department.
No municipal government who opposes it will have a fire-medic pilot or program imposed upon it, the province has said. Bain says that adopting the pilot program elsewhere may lead to a precedent that would enable an arbitrator to force the change on emergency services, even those operated by municipalities.