Two years after the County of Simcoe asked its municipalities to stop their fire departments from responding to medical calls at long-term care homes, Bradford West Gwillimbury council voted Tuesday to keep doing it anyway.
The issue was discussed by council last spring, but a decision was deferred until now.
“I’m ultimately concerned in regard to safety. Management (at Bradford Valley Care Community) has been working with staff to reduce the number of calls,” said Bradford West Gwillimbury Fire Chief Kevin Gallant.
The majority of calls Bradford West Gwillimbury Fire and Emergency Service responds to are medical calls — with 65 of 77 total calls last year being medical, according to a town staff report.
So far this year, 27 of 34 calls have been medical.
If firefighters were no longer allowed to respond to medical calls at the town’s only long-term care home, there could be confusion if an emergency call came in for a visitor or employee there, Gallant said.
Emergency calls to the fire department are logged by address, so if someone other than a resident at Bradford Valley needed help, it would be up to the potentially frantic person making the call to clearly identify who was in trouble.
“You could be opening up for some confusion,” Gallant said.
The county asked its municipalities to stop fire departments from answering medical calls at long-term care homes in an effort to find efficiencies in its medical aid tiered response program because there are already trained personnel who work at the homes.
Springwater Township is the only municipality in the county to adopt this direction.
Bradford West Gwillimbury Coun. Raj Sandhu was initially in favour of stopping the response until Gallant pointed out the potential confusion it could cause.
“Why take that risk?” Sandhu said.
Any confusion could risk people’s lives, added Coun. Peter Ferragine.
While there are extra costs when volunteer firefighters are called in, Gallant said they are typically already on duty covering for full-time firefighters who are responding to other calls when a medical call comes in.
Last year, it cost $1,710 in volunteer firefighter wages to respond to medical calls at Bradford Valley, according to a town staff report. Comparatively, it cost $1,390 in 2016, and $2,350 in 2015.
Punnapa Hartley, director of care at Bradford Valley, was at Tuesday’s council meeting to hear the issue being discussed.
She said some staff just have basic CPR skills and the ratio is one nurse to 30 residents, so getting assistance from firefighters is welcome.
“The emergency that happens is not always a resident. They come in every shape and form,” she said. “We do need the extended hand.”