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Patient transfer times dropping at Stevenson, across County

Posted February 25, 2014

In 2011, Simcoe County paramedics transporting a patient to Stevenson Memorial Hospital (SMH) waited an average of 42 minutes between arrival and transfer of care. That climbed to 48 minutes in 2012, but between Jan-Aug. 2013, dropped nearly in half to 22 minutes, which was the lowest off-load time of the catchment area hospitals during that period, according to the Paramedic Services Operational Update (PSOU) prepared for this week's human services committee agenda.

For the past year, Simcoe County has been working with the region's hospitals - SMH, Royal Victoria, Soldier's Memorial, Southlake, Georgian Bay, and Collingwood General - to reduce the amount of time it takes for paramedics to transfer patient care to the emergency departments, because until they clear the hospital, they can not be dispatched to other calls.

In January 2013, Andrew Robert, the County's Director and Chief - Paramedic Services, reported to council that paramedics spent 3,655 hours above the threshold (30 minutes) at a cost of $163.93 per hour, which in 2011, cost the County $599,285 above budget. One of the options to recoup those costs including clawing back the off-load time delay costs from the annual $3 million granted provided through the Hospital Funding Alliance.

Success over the past year in lowering the transfer times - only Georgian Bay (Midland-Penetang) and Colllingwood experienced increases - is attributed to dedicated funding to nurse resources in emergency departments.

"The County of Simcoe has been receiving this dedicated funding for the past several years with the most recent amount received of $133k in 2013/2014. This is an increase from the $104K provided for fiscal 2012/2013," according to the PSOU. "Though the allocated funds are sufficient to maintain offload nursing for approximately 7 hours per day, 7 days per week, the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre is staffing this resource at 12 hours per day, 7 days per week and is assuming costs above the allocated $133k which is valued at approximately $228k or an additional $95k."

Simcoe County

However, while the County and hospitals are gaining ground in that facet of health care delivery, the overall call volumes continue to increase because of aging demographics, which in turn is having an impact on response times. That's particularly the case in New Tecumseth, which has one of the highest concentration of those aged 55 and over, in the country. The County is spending about $2.1 million to build a new paramedic station on a 1.58 acre site on the south side of Industrial Parkway, with construction to begin this spring.

"Despite these improvements, response time has crept up as has the activity of the fleet demonstrating the overall impact of increasing operational demand. This trend is projected to continue as the population continues to grow with an aging demographic."

The PSOU notes that "In the last six years, the total call volume of Code 1 - 4 calls (patient response calls) has increased from 43,585 to 51,243 which represents an additional 7,658 calls, an increase of 18 per cent. From 2012 to 2013 these calls increased by 2,543 or five per cent. When code 8 calls (positioning of resources for emergency coverage) are added in, the values increase to an additional 17,400 calls over the six year period and 5,151 more calls in 2013 vs. 2012. These represent 23 per cent and six per cent increases respectively."

Other highlights of the report include a 19 per cent decrease in end of shift overtime - when a Paramedic is scheduled to complete a duty shift at a given time but is unable to return to base due to being on a call - which saved about $61,000, in 2013; increased kilometres travelled by the Paramedic Services' fleet of vehicles, which in 2013 climbed by 159K over 2012, to over 3.1 million km, which represents an average of over 8,500 kilometers per day.

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