January 7th, 2019

Quiet relocation of Cambridge ambulance dispatch centre is putting lives at risk

The Doug Ford government has moved the ambulance dispatch centre out of Cambridge — a move that has already put Ontarians’ lives at risk — and NDP MPP for Waterloo Catherine Fife is calling for the dispatch centre to be returned to Cambridge.

The closure of the Cambridge Central Ambulance Communications Centre and its relocation to Hamilton meant the dispatch centre in Hamilton wasn’t equipped to auto-locate addresses in the Cambridge dispatch catchment area, which includes Waterloo Region, Wellington County and Dufferin County. According to reports, consequently, on Dec. 23, an ambulance was dispatched to the wrong address, causing a 16-minute delay to a patient that had, at one point, lost vital signs.

“When someone calls an ambulance, they deserve to know that help is on the way, as fast as possible,” said Fife.

“The kind of delay reported on Dec. 23 is unacceptable, and could have been prevented. No family in WaterlooRegion, Wellington County or Dufferin County should have to worry about what might slow an ambulance down when a loved one is in crisis.”

While the centre’s move was reportedly attributed to staffing shortages, Fife said it’s unclear how relocating the centre is addressing the issue, and if any work is being done to get the centre back.

“We deserve a government that will make health care a top priority,” said Fife. “For our region, right now, that includes putting into place a vigorous staff recruitment and retention strategy to support, hire and keep emergency dispatchers. This is an extremely high-stress job. In order for our emergency dispatchers to take care of Ontarians, we need a government that respects and takes care of them.

“That’s a priority for our community, but the Ford government clearly doesn’t share our priorities. When it comes to recruitment and retention, he’s made it clear he’s not a premier who will do right by working people. This government needs to get the dispatch centre back to Cambridge and fully operational, immediately, and ensure that no one in our region is ever put at risk like this again.”