No interest from county in pilot program for firefighters
By Chad Ingram
Published Aug. 3, 2017
Haliburton County will pass on a provincial pilot program where firefighters will perform some paramedic duties.
Under the program, firefighters who have done paramedic training would be able to treat patients and release them, on-site.
“One of the serious concerns I think we share, is patients are very complicated,” said county chief administrative officer Mike Rutter during a July 26 council meeting. Rutter said there could be underlying factors for symptoms patients may be experiencing, factors that the specially trained firefighters may not be aware of.
From a municipal standpoint, Rutter said the situation involved too much liability.
“Does that leave us open to a lawsuit?” he said. “We are concerned about that.”
While the province seems determined to move ahead with the pilot program, “I really don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest this will work, or save money,” Rutter continued, adding there seems to be a shortage of municipalities willing to volunteer for the pilot.
He said the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has advocated that, instead of creating a duplicate system, the province fund ambulance services appropriately.
Land ambulance costs are funded at 50 per cent by the province, 50 per cent by municipalities.
“It’s basically about off-loading,” said Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey. “It’s about putting us on the hook, more than the province.”
Fearrey noted that while the province pays 50 per cent of ambulance costs, it pays none for firefighting.
Councillors noted that the county’s municipalities have volunteer firefighting departments and Fearrey speculated the outcome of the process could mean full-time, professional fire departments for rural communities.
“It will lead to full-time fire departments in rural Ontario, once they get it downloaded,” he said.
“It’s sort of the thin edge of the wedge you have to worry about, it’s union-driven,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. “I’ll be interested to see what comes out of these pilots.”
Moffatt added that, “it seems strange that they [the province] are pushing it when they really have no jurisdiction.”