Paramedic Services are continuing to face many different challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From an increase in call volume, to staffing pressures – new responsibilities and roles, and ongoing stressors, have resulted in less resource availability at times. Norfolk County Paramedic Services (NCPS), and most health care agencies across Ontario, face staffing challenges at an unprecedented level.

“Currently we have 60 full time and 36 part time paramedics employed at NCPS, all of whom are demonstrating dedication and resiliency, as we move through this pandemic with the community,” said Paramedic Services Chief, Sarah Page. “Staffing of paramedics across the province is precarious; no service has an abundance of staff, instead, most are facing crisis level staffing of excessive part time hours being worked, overtime shifts to both full and part time staff, unfilled (down-staffed) shifts and management staff working on the ambulances.”

Norfolk County is also experiencing an increase in volume of emergency calls. In December, staff completed 834 calls, plus additional calls for emergency standby coverage. That is over 40 per cent higher than the same time period in 2020.

The decision to change deployment of ambulances to different areas or use fewer crews on a certain shift is authorized by the Chief, based on availability of staff (using all staffing options), and the normal/expected call volume of the location.  The service also uses emergency coverage standbys throughout all hours to ensure that ambulances available for calls are strategically placed to provide the best emergency response coverage across the entire county.   Even with all of these contingencies in place, there were eleven times that there was one less ambulance in the County for a complete shift during the month of December.

As messaging continues across the Province, NCPS joins their partners in reminding the community to follow all public health recommendations including frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, keeping contacts to a minimum and ensuring those that are sick to stay home.

Residents are encouraged to use the 911 system for emergencies only, and avoid the emergency room for minor complaints. 911 should not be called for access to COVID-19 testing, as this is not appropriate – and Paramedics do not have access to any testing processes on the ambulance.

Norfolk County Paramedics Services, as well as Norfolk County Senior Leadership, continue to take great measures to ensure that this community receives emergency medical care in the most efficient and effective way to preserve life and protect health.