Windsor Hospital hires 7 ‘offload assistants’ to help deal with ambulance shortage

Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) is hiring seven new Ambulance Offload Assistants to help ease a months-long ambulance shortage that led Essex County officials to declare an emergency in October.

The emergency was canceled on October 28, but the shortage is still an ongoing issue.

Essex-Windsor Emergency Medical Services data shows the time the service was in code black, meaning there are no ambulances available to respond to an emergency call, has increased rapidly since July.

EMS chief Bruce Krauter previously told CBC News that part of the problem was long delays in offloading and admitting patients, which tied up the department’s 26 ambulances.

« The causes of offloading delays are complex and linked to long-standing issues of hospital capacity, patient flow, a lack of local primary care providers, resulting in increased use of [the] 911 system,” he said.

Relieve assistants in one way to ease the pressure

Jonathan Foster, vice president of emergency services at WRH, said Windsor is following along with other Ontario hospitals in adding auxiliary offloading staff.

« It’s not a new concept. It’s already being done in other hospitals around the province, including Ottawa, » he said.

« Paramedics will work in conjunction with our Emergency Department Offload Registered Nurses, which helps facilitate the removal of patients from ambulances and their transfer to hospital. »

Windsor Regional Hospital officials say hiring offload assistants will help ambulances get back on the road faster. (Mike Evans/CBC)

Foster said WRH currently uses a paramedic offload program, where two paramedics monitor patients who cannot be seen by overwhelmed emergency rooms.

He said offload assistants will assess patients, monitor them and relieve pressure on emergency rooms.

“It really increases our ability to quickly offload ambulances and free them up and get them back on the road,” he said.

Ambulance shortages caused by high patient volume aren’t the only challenge WRH faces, Foster said, and they’ve taken several steps to deal with the strain on the hospital system.

Foster said that since the pandemic, WRH has added more than 400 new staff members to cope with the high volume of patients. It also opened 60 more beds in Windsor’s hospital system and added more doctors and nurses.

New positions could lead to burnout for paramedics, says union leader

James Jovanovic, president of CUPE Local 2974, the union that represents paramedics in Windsor-Essex, told CBC News he was concerned WRH was hiring paramedics as unloading assistants.

« Hiring additional resources at the hospital should in theory help with the offloading, delays and release of ambulances to get back on the road and be available for a 911 response, » he said.

James Jovanovic is president of CUPE 2974, which represents EMS workers in Essex County. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

However, hiring the Windsor-Essex paramedic pool, Jovanovic said, reduces the number of paramedics available to operate ambulances.

“For an EMS department that is already understaffed, this could theoretically further strain our EMS resources, which could lead to burnout, which could lead to increased sick leave,” he said.

« It’s certainly an interesting development, but I think there could be other consequences that remain to be seen. »


Back to top button