THUNDER BAY - Superior North EMS is looking to expand services in the city of Thunder Bay to address a steadily increasing demand in 911 calls over the past three years.
“What we are finding is our 911 demand has gone up substantially in the last year,” said Superior North EMS chief Wayne Gates. “So we are looking at taking two of our current eight-hour cars that only run five days a week and hopefully expand them to 12-hour cars and run seven days a week and hopefully meet that demand.”
In 2018, the number of annual 911 calls Superior North EMS responded to was approximately 28,000. Gates said he expects by the end of 2021, that number will climb to 32,000, an increase of 14 per cent.
“We are in a state now where we need to add these resources to keep up with that demand,” Gates said.
Gates will be appearing before Thunder Bay City Council on Monday to request the expansion of 4,600 ambulance hours, or 88-hours bi-weekly, as well as adding the expansion to the 2021 EMS budget.
The estimated cost of adding the expansion is approximately $200,000 for the 2021 budget, which would see the hiring of four new full-time paramedics, adding to the 68 already working. Gates said going forward the province will match the funding needed.
According to Gates, there are a number of factors that have led to the increasing volume of 911 calls, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the ongoing addictions crisis in the city.
“Over the years, we know of an aging population in Thunder Bay and that is part of the call demand, but we also know addiction calls, mental health calls, those are on the rise as well,” he said.
Gates said he will continue to monitor the call volume going forward while also looking at how other services can help support the growing demand.
“The 911 EMS system is kind of that safety net that people go to when there’s nowhere else to go,” he said. “A big challenge for us going forward is being able to get those people to the right services when they need them. That is a bigger society picture that we need to get other partners involved to help address this.”
Other services such as crisis centres or detox facilities could help alleviate not only the pressures on EMS services, but the emergency department at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences as well.