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MLA wants minister to address Pubnico ambulance concerns; EHS official says response times not an issue

Emergency Health Services ambulance. There has been talk in the Pubnico area about the status of the ambulance service there.
Emergency Health Services ambulance. There has been talk in the Pubnico area about the status of the ambulance service there.

YARMOUTH -- Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont says he wants Nova Scotia’s health minister to respond to concerns that have been raised about the ambulance service in Pubnico.

Recent word that the status of the service had changed had residents wondering about potentially longer emergency response times, and d’Entremont says he has written to the minister about the matter and plans to raise it again in the legislature.

“I wrote another letter today to try to get further clarification on it,” d’Entremont said in an April 3 interview. “I’m going to ask the minister, when the house goes in, for further clarification on it.”

A spokesman for Emergency Health Services says what has happened with the Pubnico ambulance service is part of a regular process of determining how best to allocate resources, and he says they have not found any negative impact on response times.

“We’ve not seen any degradation in our response times in the community of Pubnico,” said Mark Wheatley, general manager of provincial operations with EHS.

The EHS system is designed to “flex and contract when needed,” he said. Ambulances are moved around as call volumes dictate through a process called system status planning.

Data is regularly examined and adjustments are made from time to time in response to the numbers, he said, describing it as a moving target.

“As call volumes increase throughout the day, ambulances are moved around to ensure the broadest area of coverage, so they could be in a number of places, including Pubnico,” said Wheatley, who is based in Dartmouth.

He acknowledged that the Pubnico base currently is not a priority post. “What changed is the call volume in other regions rose, where the call volume in Pubnico has stayed static,” he said.

He said response time has not been an issue in the month or so since the adjustment. “I can tell you for sure it’s not,” he said. “Certainly to date it has not been.”

D’Entremont says the overall problem facing EHS is that the number of calls they’re getting provincially is up, but they haven’t hired more paramedics or added more ambulances, so “they’re very stretched in the way they’re responding to that extra volume, and that puts places like Pubnico at a deficit for service.”

Wheatley maintains Pubnico has not had anything taken away.

“We simply have adjusted where our priority postings are, based on historical data and call volume, and this is something that happens in the EHS system on a regular basis,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you the specific last time there has been a change in the Pubnico area, but we do make system status adjustments, generally on a quarterly basis, across the province.”

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