Ottenbreit talks EMS in wake of social media controversy

What’s going on with Yorkton’s emergency medical service (EMS)?

A Facebook post claimed that Crestvue Ambulance had a staffing cut, and that the city’s ambulance service was in a funding crisis.  

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Yorkton MLA and Minister for Rural and Remote Health Greg Ottenbreit said that from the Provincial Government’s perspective, that’s not the case, and very little has changed. The same contract is in place, requiring three ambulances be available at all times. The funding through the contract also has not changed.

So what did change?

Crestvue Ambulance has a new owner, Kelly Prime, who took over from Dennis Nelson, who owned it for 45 years. Prime is currently the Paramedic Chiefs of Saskatchewan.

“I’m confident he is going to do a good job here in Yorkton and improve services,” said Ottenbreit.

The owner is the one who decides on staffing, and the new owner has changed the way they are staffed, but Ottenbreit said that they still need to meet the same standard and are still required to have three ambulances available 24 hours a day.

“There’s speculation about cuts and all the rest of it... But there has been no change to Crestvue’s contract or their funding, it’s all the same as it was before. The owner, within the agreement, is delivering the staffing in a way that he sees as more beneficial.”

Ottenbreit is confident in Prime’s ability to meet the standards required in the region.

“They’ve been in this province a long time, doing the same thing in different areas, and he’s got a great track record.”

However, if a staffing change is needed, does that mean that the contract itself needs to change? Ottenbreit said that the overall plan is to get the province’s ambulance services on new, more uniform, performance-based contracts, but this takes time, especially given that this is an issue that is across the province and not just in Yorkton. The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is attempting to rework the EMS system, and Ottenbreit said he pushed to have EMS studied heavily when they moved to one health authority in order to have it more consistent across the province.

“What we had previously was 12 different regions that had 12 different priorities when it came to EMS. We had multiple different contracts, multiple different structures throughout the province. With one single health authority, we can move to a more uniform EMS system throughout the province. Some of that will involve improvements to service.”

Ottenbreit said that he has a weekly meeting with the SHA with regard to EMS, with a focus on improving the system.

In Yorkton, a new contract is in the works, but has not been signed yet, said Ottenbreit.

“That’s going to reflect on what [Prime] sees the needs are in the area. We are anticipating his performance-based agreement to be signed in the next while.”

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