Pubnico-area residents in Yarmouth County are concerned about their ambulance service, saying they are seeing longer wait times and that lives, potentially, are being put at greater risk.
However, Emergency Health Services says a change they made earlier this year in Pubnico was about making better use of resources across their provincewide system.
Concern was raised in the area earlier this year after EHS adjusted its ambulance deployment plan, a move local residents said was reducing their coverage.
EHS representatives were invited to speak on the matter to Argyle municipal council, which they did at council’s Oct. 10 meeting, and a good number of Pubnico-area residents were on hand too to ensure the community’s concerns were heard.
Jeff Fraser, director of provincial operations for EHS, acknowledged that people likely were concerned this past winter when they heard that Pubnico was no longer a priority post, but he said the term “priority” can be misleading.
“It’s not that Pubnico – or Yarmouth or Meteghan or anywhere else – is not a priority,” he said. “They’re all a priority to us, but we have so many resources and we have to use the resources the best we can.”
Provincially, the EHS system is very busy, council was told, and the system is continually monitored and evaluated to try to ensure that ambulances are where they need to be and that communities are covered.
Referring to the change that took effect in February in Pubnico, Fraser said, “The difference is that the ambulance doesn’t always sit in Pubnico. The demands of the system spoke clearly to us that we needed to make an adjustment. It is truly about balance.”
He said EHS is “comfortable with what we’ve done in the system,” but residents who spoke at the council session had a different view, saying it’s taking longer to get an ambulance in the Pubnico area.
Blair d’Entremont, a local volunteer fire department member in charge of medical first responders at his station, said they have been getting called out more this year and that ambulance wait times have increased.
“I’m in the field, I’ve seen it,” he said. “I’ve seen one time we waited 35 minutes for an ambulance to come to our call, and that never happened before.”
Dr. Peter Loveridge, a longtime local physician, told the EHS representatives, “However you spin it, this is a reduction in service.”
Several speakers noted that the Pubnico area is a major fishing community – with plenty of people working as fishermen or in fish plants – another reason, they say, the area needs a locally based ambulance it can count on.
Asked by Alain Muise, the Municipality of Argyle’s chief administrative officer, if they had data regarding ambulance wait times after the change in Pubnico compared to before, Fraser said they didn’t have that information with them but that they would get it and provide it to the municipality.
Asked later about what residents had to say at the meeting, Fraser said it was important to hear them.
“They’re just doing what everybody would do and that’s advocate for themselves and their community, and that’s not a bad thing,” he said.