Heart attack underscores EMS needs

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Heather Wright/The Independent

St. Clair Township Councillor Bill Myers knows the importance of a quick response by paramedics.
Myers revealed at Tuesday’s council meeting he’d been absent for a couple of weeks after suffering a heart attack in early April.

“I’m glad to report that I’m feeling better and I’m back,” he said during the new business portion of the council agenda as he thanked council and the public for reaching out during his illness.

And Myers said the heart attack underscored how important a strong paramedic service is.

“We had a report not long ago about response times for ambulance services and some of our township is a bit under serviced,” he said.

“I just encourage working towards that because the guy like me sometimes depends on it to stay alive,” said Myers.

Mayor Jeff Agar agreed noting faster response times was one of the reasons the township was among the first Lambton County fire departments to contract the Sarnia Police service for dispatching.

In a report to Lambton County councillors May 15, Emergency Medical Services Deputy Manager Lynn McCreary writes the county met and surpassed its response time targets in 2023.

“Although response times have slowly increased over the past five years, they are still well within the targets set by the County, indicating relative stability and consistency of service delivery to those requiring EMS response in the region.

“Of note, response times have improved from the previous year for Sudden Cardiac Arrest calls.”
Fifty seven per cent of those calls are now answered within six minutes, she noted.

And while McCreary says the county is meeting its targets, its more difficult to do so.

“Additional pressures, such as an aging population and time spent awaiting patient transfer of care in the hospital emergency departments, have consumed some of the EMS system capacity, resulting in decreased ambulance availability and lengthening response times,” she writes.

In 2023, 17 per cent of ambulances waited at the emergency department to off load. That’s up from 13.3 per cent the year before.

McCreary says paramedics are working on a plan to reduce that wait time. London Health Sciences Centre has been working on the problem and McCreary says the change is already noticeable.

Meantime, another ambulance unit with paramedics is expected to hit the road for an extra 12 hours per day. That was approved in the 2024 county budget. McCreary expects that will happen in June.