Wait times for Winnipeg ambulances continue to climb, WFPS says

Wait times for Winnipeg ambulances continue to climb, according to new numbers from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS).

The average wait time for an ambulance in the city in 2022 is just under 21 minutes — an increase from 13 back in 2015.

For calls that are deemed non-emergent, the response time has doubled over the past five years to nearly 41 minutes from 20.

WFPS chief Christian Schmidt, however, said despite the increases, the service is still able to get a trained professional — if not an ambulance — to a patient’s side in a much quicker timeframe in emergency situations.

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“We try to strive for a standard of eight minutes and 59 seconds to have the first provider at the patient’s side,” he said.

“The numbers that were shared show a category where we have both ambulance and fire (responders) dispatched, and in those cases, we’re still achieving those targets.”

Schmidt told 680 CJOB’s The Start that, just like health-care workers in the province, ambulances are being relied on too heavily, and that more money to expand the WFPS’ fleet, as well as having non-urgent calls diverted to other community supports, could help improve the numbers.

Read more: Manitoba ambulances sitting idle due to staff shortages: Union raising alarm

The average ambulance utilization rate, he said, is more than 60 per cent — much higher than he’d like to see, as it has led to a steady rise in situations where fewer — and sometimes zero — ambulances are available to respond to a call.

“Right now, our average is 63 per cent, and we want to target for 40 to 45 per cent,” Schmidt said.

“The only thing that has been saving us right now is our ability to have a firefighter/paramedic at a patient’s side.”

Shared Health is working with the City of Winnipeg to finalize a new EMS service purchase agreement that they believe will be beneficial to both sides – and to patient care, a spokesperson told Global News on Friday.

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“While Shared Health will defer comment on details of the negotiations until the contract is complete and signed, we will note that increasing volumes and longer response times for low acuity 911 calls are a concern we share with the WFPS and a number of initiatives have been launched to improve services.

“This includes a recent change in ambulance transport protocols, which send appropriate lower-acuity patients to urgent care centres rather than emergency departments, and elimination of ambulance redirections.”

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