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New data shows longer response times and higher volumes of 911 calls in rural Manitoba

Response times and call volumes for emergency medical services in rural Manitoba are on the rise due to staffing shortages and reassignments, according to newly released data.

Vanessa Pepin, who lives in St. Georges, was in West St. Paul recently when her 22-month-old daughter required urgent medical attention.

“We put her in the stroller so that we could get some stuff done,” Pepin says. “She was tired, she’d been cuddling with her nana prior to, and we gave her a sucker. Later, my mom went ‘Call 911, call 911’. And I’m like ‘Why? Why are we calling 911?’ And she goes ‘Ashleigh’s choking, Ashleigh’s choking, something’s wrong with Ashleigh.’”

Her daughter received a shot from an epi pen and was able to start breathing again. However, Pepin says the ambulance took more than 20 minutes to arrive, despite them being at the Access Centre, located across the highway from the West St. Paul fire station.

“I asked them what took so long,” Pepin says. “They said ‘Normally we’re stationed just behind the Access Centre, but because we’re so short staffed, they put us in Stonewall. We were coming from Stonewall.”

Pepin says her daughter is doing better now, but she will be keeping an eye out for further medical concerns.

“They said it was a febrile seizure, and that it was safe for her to go home,” she says, “but now she has a 30 percent higher chance of having another one.”

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals says rural paramedics are taking up to 30 percent longer to respond to the most serious medical emergencies, compared to fourth quarter data from 2018.

It says the data, obtained from Shared Health through Freedom of Information Act requests, also shows that nearly one-in-three full-time and part-time rural paramedic positions are now vacant, with only 499 positions filled out of 717 total positions.

”We have a staffing crisis,” says Jason Linklater, the president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals. “It’s a very urgent issue and it’s something that impacts Manitobans every single day. Paramedics provide service that’s invaluable to Manitobans.”

Shared Health tells CTV News that work to recruit new paramedics and fill available shifts is ongoing.

It also says the recent addition of an inter-facility transport program in Brandon, Selkirk, and Morden/Winkler will allow more paramedics to be available to respond to emergency calls and high-acuity transports. Top Stories

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