Toronto Paramedic Services (TPS) is working to address significant delays faced by paramedic crews in transferring patients to hospital emergency departments, as hospitals battle the COVID-19 Omicron surge.
Delays in off-loading patients into the care of hospitals remains the single biggest challenge and risk to ambulance availability in Toronto today, recognizing that hospitals also face staffing shortages because of the Omicron variant. The City continues to work with its hospital partners to reduce these delays as much as possible.
One strategy to free up ambulance crews includes paramedics safely tending to more than one patient awaiting transfer in an emergency department. While not a new strategy, it will be used more frequently as one solution to getting ambulances back on the road and available sooner.
A dedicated team of paramedic supervisors has now been assigned to various hospitals across the city, fully-focused on getting paramedic crews and ambulances back on the road as quickly as possible.
To ensure high-priority calls are always attended to first, lower-priority calls continue to be delayed or deferred, with Toronto Fire Services responding to approximately 10 per cent of low-priority calls today.
Toronto residents should continue to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Emergency medical dispatchers are experts at triaging all emergency calls, diverting ambulances to high-priority calls first, while staying in touch with those whose calls are determined to be low priority.
Yesterday, TPS had 115 ambulances in service, which would be the average ambulance availability on a Thursday in January.
Due to COVID-19-related illness, isolation requirements and other illnesses, absence rates in TPS was 17.1 per cent yesterday; in non-pandemic times, unplanned absences are about 9 per cent. To mitigate unplanned absences, yesterday TPS used overtime to ensure an additional 15 crews were in service. There are 1,400 paramedics employed by Toronto Paramedic Services.
“Toronto Paramedics Services has been on the frontline of community health care throughout this pandemic. I thank our highly trained and skilled paramedics, emergency medical dispatchers, support and leadership staff for everything they are doing to keep Toronto safe – they are best in the industry. Toronto Paramedic Services will continue to stay focused on this serious issue, collaborating with Toronto Fire, Toronto Police and local hospitals.”
– Chief Paul Raftis, Toronto Paramedic Services
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