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Ambulance New Brunswick says response time data coming after 16-month delay

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A new dispatch system installed in January 2023 by Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB) has caused a year-plus delay in posting its ambulance response times – but Medavie Health Services says the data is coming.

Normally, ANB posts response times on its website, divided by month and rural versus urban areas.

All of 2023 is missing but ANB spokesperson Eric Robichaud says the initial “reconciliation work” has been completed and they’re working with the Department of Health for “final review and approval.”

“The Department was provided with several months’ worth of raw data to review, so we haven’t returned to our regular monthly process as of yet. As soon as the department has completed their review and approval, we’ll be posting all data to our public website again and will return to our monthly process moving forward,” he said.

The Paramedic Association of New Brunswick's executive director says they’ve been missing the information, as it shows how the system is operating.

“When an ambulance has to come from another neighbouring or two neighbouring jurisdictions away to the city of Moncton to do a cardiac arrest in front of the hospital, that's a pretty good measure that there's something wrong with the system,” said Chris Hood. “And so that's the measure we really need to focus on.”

Hood says one of the questions he has is if a slight improvement in offload times has had any impact on response times.

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, offload times at emergency rooms across the province amounted to 35,516 hours, according to ANB.

That improved slightly in the 2023-2024 fiscal year, to 26,436.

But that’s still more than twice what it was in 2020-2021.

Courtesy: Ambulance New Brunswick

“There are many factors within the hospital system that contribute to offload delays, and we know our health-care partners are working very hard to resolve these issues,” said Robichaud.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic in April, when she officially became the permanent CEO of Horizon Health Network, Margaret Melanson said they have been able to “somewhat reduce” offload delays, and were still working on the patient flow of emergency departments.

Hood says paramedics are still waiting long hours – and he does wonder how much it’s having an impact on response times.

He says at some hospitals in the northern part of the province, paramedics are being asked to stay in their ambulances with the patients until the hospital can receive them.

“If the health-care facility isn't open to patients, then we probably should be go into the next closest, available hospital. If that's not in New Brunswick, perhaps that's in Nova Scotia. Perhaps that's in Quebec,” he said, noting it can be a serious patient safety concern in both summer and winter months.

In an emailed statement from Dr. Natalie Banville, senior vice-president of client programs, intrahospital services and medical affairs at Vitalité Health Network, she didn’t deny that’s happening, but said the network’s primary concern is the safety of patients.

“Each case is evaluated individually to ensure timely and appropriate care, with triage occurring immediately upon arrival to prioritize needs,” she said. “We are actively working to reduce hospital occupancy rates to prevent delays and improve emergency service access."

Right now, paramedics are short-staffed about 20 to 25 per cent, mostly due to stress, sickness or maternity leaves, Hood said.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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