Health: Durham paramedics sound alarm over lack of available ambulances

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For the second time in two days, Durham Region paramedics say they were in a dire situation where no ambulances were available to answer calls.

“At approximately 12:45 this afternoon, Durham Region was in Code Zero,” the Durham Paramedics CUPE local 1764 tweeted Monday.

The paramedics first signalled dangerous circumstances the night before.

“At approximately 18:12 (Sunday) evening, Durham Region was in code zero,” CUPE tweeted Sunday. “This means that there were zero ambulances available to attend emergency calls.”

Tuesday there was no longer a Code Zero in place.

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“Our paramedics are handling the Code Zeros as best as they can be; it’s always tough to hear that the service has no ambulances available,” said union representative Niko Georgiadis Tuesday.

“These are difficult situations as paramedics know seconds count when it comes to life-threatening emergencies, so imagine that your family member has to wait for an ambulance when they’re having a heart attack or stroke. It’s a tough situation for all of us to be in.”

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Durham Region, he added, has 32 ambulances on patrol most days.

But he said resources are stretched.

“It’s a combination of factors such as offload delays at the hospital as well as, more importantly, not having enough paramedics on the road to service emergency calls,” said Georgiadis.

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The Durham Region Paramedics Services blamed the problem on “a combination of factors, including hospital off-load delays, surges in 911 call volumes, and staffing pressures. This is not a new problem and not unique to Durham Region.”

The current situation with under-staffed hospitals is also a major factor.

“The pressures that hospitals are experiencing with issues such as staffing, have further exacerbated the offload delay challenges that paramedic services are facing across the province. Offload delays are happening more frequently and for greater time periods,” the paramedic service said.

“This does have a direct impact on the availability of ambulances and paramedic resources.”

CUPE said “Code Zero” is one level worse than what is called “code critical” – when just one ambulance is available.

There is also “code capacity” — when just six ambulances or less available.

“Any time there is a reduced number of ambulances or paramedic resources available to respond to 911 calls, there is a public safety risk,” Durham Region said of Code Zero.

“It does not happen frequently, but any time it does happen, it is deeply concerning.”

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