Letter to the Editor by Bill Fry – An Election issue of life and Death for residents SD&G and Cornwall Ontario – Ambulance Service – October 10, 2010

What if you called an ambulance because you’ve just suffered a heart attack or your loved one is bleeding to death because of an accident and the response was there’s not one available but one is on its way from Ottawa?

Well this is a reality and everyone in the three United Counties of SD&G and the city of Cornwall needs to make this an election issue by demanding from any politician asking for their vote in any municipality  that they promise that if elected that they will seek a committee at the Three United Counties level to fully investigate the ambulance service provided to over 110,000 citizens in 3000 square miles that the SD&G is responsible for.

A year ago in September I became concerned about the building of a Central Ambulance Station that would’ve increased the distance to emergencies to many areas west of Cornwall.

At the time I wrote several letters to the editor and spoke to several local township council members. One of those members Tammy Hart became very concerned but told me that as a counsellor she had very little input on the issue but she would bring it up to Council so that council’s representatives at the counties level would be informed and it would be up to them to follow up.

Fortunately South Stormont’s council members were concerned   and requested a   meeting between Cornwall emergency services who oversees Ambulance service for SD&G and the Manager of Emergency Services for Cornwall Myles Cassidy gave his presentation to S. Stormont’s Counsel on April, 22, 2010 I was invited to be there and given permission to ask questions.

The Chief was very open  and it soon became  apparent to me  that the location of this new  station was minor to what the chief revealed to us,  in fact I never even raised the concern  because  of the much larger threat to  life and limb  that became apparent.

In short it was revealed that  many times  there is only one ambulance available for 110,000 people covering 3000 square miles., and at times there are none. This of course is unacceptable and can only be changed by forming a committee to fully investigate the ambulance services throughout SD &G and city of Cornwall. But this committee will probably not be formed unless you elect representatives to your township or city that pledge to fully investigate and ensure that every citizen has the ambulance protection that we pay for and deserve.

You may be surprised to find out that the reason we do not have a  ambulance available  many times  is because a City of Ottawa who appears to also suffer from a shortage of   ambulances  under mutual aid laws mandated by the province are using ambulances from the Municipalities  that are transferring patients to the  specialized hospitals in Ottawa and  minute the ambulance radios dispatch to say they are free to take calls and returning to their home base they  are grabbed  to do  Ottawa calls  not always life threatening .

Also because emergency departments are short staffed because of poor funding ambulance paramedics are forced to wait six hours or more to transfer a patient to an emergency nurse.

I also firmly believe  that the City of Ottawa  has a  Serious Ambulance Shortage and under  existing  provincial rules  and  the amount of ambulances  from all the surrounding communities  that take patients there on a daily basis it  allows them to not have to address this issue  saving their tax payers millions of dollars  while putting  our communities at risk as we subsidize  the much more affluent community of Ottawa.

Also complicating this now is a new directive demanding at all ambulances report to Cornwall home base to change shift and  added to this  that the  positioning of ambulances be done  according to historical data means that villages like Morrisburg and Alexandria often are not covered for many hours.

The extra wear and tear on the vehicles and increased fuel consumption also means significant costs to the taxpayer.

The city of Cornwall has looked after itself  it has two quick response units  cars  to   send  with paramedics  to stabilize patients until a ambulance arrives to transport to the hospital but there maybe one day  a needless death  will occur due to lack of timely transport to a full medical unit.

Also Cornwall has full time firefighters that also can be  task to respond to  assist were in the counties they have a volunteer  units

In conclusion this needs to be a very serious election issue!

Now is the time as a citizen to raise your concerns at all candidate debates at the door and in the newspapers that if elected your representatives will not stop till this serious risk to everyone’s health is corrected.

The time is now not at an inquest into your death. I am only one voice I need to be more.

In all fairness to Bryan McGillis Warden of SD&G counties   he  has been working to see what  could be done to correct this  but I believe he  needs  the full support of all politicians from the counties to  correct this problem  and  we need to see  positive results very soon .

Bill Fry Former manager Electrodiagnostic Dept HDH Cornwall

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

Bob CopelandPommier Jewellers


  1. Dear Citizens of Cornwall and SD&G,

    I fully endorse and support forming a committee to fully investigate the ambulance services throughout SD &G and city of Cornwall.

    I would also like to investigate Green Ambulances here in Cornwall. The cost of Ford’s new gas (instead of diesel) ambulances will increase operational cost by 25% a year: http://domino.city.cornwall.on.ca/Active/Development/egenda.nsf/965d04e85bb82eb4852573ae007b4532/96a8b3eef258b323852575ed005517f1?OpenDocument

    A Quebec company is leading the way with a new Green Ambulance:

    Like Cornwall and SD&G, the County of Simcoe covers a larger area including Barrie and Orillia. I would like to open up communications with this County, and find out if it is worth going Green with Ambulance services. We need a long term plan that is both green and cost effective for tax payers.

    I would like to see Cornwall and SD&G take the Fleet Challenge:
    to produce custom reports and recommendations for reducing emissions, fuel, operating and capital costs for each fleet.

    Here is an interesting report:
    of why we should go green!

    I believe going green will better spend tax payers money, we can help the environment, and stretch our dollar further to offer better services (instead of reducing services as fuel cost increases).

    -Jason Setnyk

  2. I wonder if the person, who had a heart attack or the person bleeding to death from an accident, gives two hoots about Green ambulances, operating costs, taxpayers, fuel expenses, shift changes, or anything else you can think of. They just want to get to the hospital! Let us hope and pray that we don’t get caught-up in all that red tape while someone lies on the ground suffering. I think this should be of prime importance to anyone running for city council.

  3. @Cornwall Harry – I agree with you that a patient in need just wants to get to the hospital. But I don’t think anyone is going to be ‘waiting for an ambulance’ as a result of City Council debating these issues. To ensure services don’t get cut in the future, let’s be progressive and have a long term plan that is cost effective (and as a bonus – is also good for the environment).

  4. Well it makes a lot of sense at anytime to run a lean and as green a service as possible but the central issue here is getting any patient to the hospital in time . The problem appears to be three things and envolves the provincial government maybe changing rules on mutual aide and looking at there shortage and makeing them add ambulances and then the local health intergration people located in ottawa properly funding or making sure the Ottawa hospitals do not use specialized paramedics as baby sitters until they have the time to take the patient : so maybe better funding for staff and lets take a serious look at the system that makes ambulance staff drive all the way from out the other side of Winchester to pick up there ambulance in Cornwall only to drive back to Winchester again .
    I Ihave been told by a paramedic this system was designed for cities not large rual areas. the problem is ploiticians in Cornwall were sold the idear and may not want to admit they are wrong after buiding there big central garage . But to the taxpayer bleeding to death or having a heart attack they wil be forgiving if you get them to the hospital on time to vote again!
    I support a SD&G committee with ambulance attendants from rual area’s as well as city and also provincial reps and township reps !

  5. adding ambulances in Ottawa that is so they not using ours while we have no coverage ! sorry for the not making that clear !

  6. Sad looks like this issue has died like we might if nothing is done about it !

  7. Jason
    Endorse all you want, how will you fix the problem. Must really leave a bad taste

    If we continue to refute change and always fight against growthe you see what happens.

  8. Don’t think its growth in SDG sytem that is needed !!! If our ambulances are not transporting Ottawa patients and our paramedics not babysitting patients at ottawa hospitals for hours on end or on the road changing shifts they might just be here for us when needed most. Seems to me the smart tax payers are in Ottawa getting us to pay for there sevices while here we sit back and complain about how high our municipal tax dollars are with out getting upset at real issues.

  9. Complaining is a Canadian tradition. We are well known for it.

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