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City plans to hire lots more paramedics

Photo: A recent cohort of Ottawa paramedic recruits beginning this month. (Via Ottawa Paramedic Service)

A city committee has green-lit a plan to hire more paramedics to deal with offload delays/increased demand for service:

To address the current urgent need for more paramedics, the City would hire 14 of its 2024 growth positions as soon as possible this year, to be funded from the tax stabilization reserve fund. Over the next three budget cycles, the City would consider addressing growth pressures by adding 23 new paramedics and two new emergency vehicles each year. To address offload delay in hospitals, the City would also consider adding another 17 new paramedics and one new emergency vehicle each year over the next three budget cycles, subject to provincial and local hospital funding.

According to a city report (opens a PDF), demand for paramedics has increased significantly since 2021 for reasons including population growth, aging population and more complex medical conditions among patients. Furthermore, it takes longer to transfer patients into the care of hospitals, due to healthcare system issues that are beyond the city’s control. The offload delay problem has only worsened since the pandemic began, and has stoked occurrences of “level zero” events, where no ambulances are available to respond to calls. In 2022, there were 1.806 such level zero events, up from 719 in 2021.

The plan is pending city council approval later this month.