Guelph paramedic chief says service will not go down as province looks at merger

With the Ontario Government looking at merging ambulance services in the province, Guelph and Wellington County’s paramedic chief says service will not go down.

Stephen Dewar admits he was caught off guard by the news of plans to possibly integrate the 59 emergency health services operators and 22 dispatch centres.

“We were caught completely by surprise,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “We just learned about it last night and we’re still trying to see what the implications might be for our staff and for our service.”

He said it appears to be a reversal of a provincial decision in 2000 to download paramedic services to municipalities.

When asked about any possible changes, Premier Doug Ford said nothing is set in stone.

“The service is not going to go down,” Ford told reporters on Tuesday. “We just want to make sure that we drive efficiencies.”

Despite all of the uncertainty, Dewar echoed the premier’s word.

“This isn’t going to reduce the level of care and the level of service in our area,” he said.

Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service employs roughly 200 first responders and already covers 2,600 square kilometres, most of which is rural.

Dewar said it’s a balancing act to ensure service between the city of Guelph and the large area throughout Wellington County.

“If you make the service larger, I don’t see any savings,” he said. “You still need to continue that same balancing act, but I’ll leave that for the province to figure out how they want to do that.”

Ford also promised that Ontario will retain the same number of paramedics, but Dewar said he’s been receiving a lot of questions.

“There is still some angst about ‘who will I be working for’ and what do those conditions look like,” he said.

“We will wait for official announcements and take care of our paramedics as best we can.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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