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December 5, 2002
Distinctive new Emergency Response Unit vehicles mean faster response times for Toronto EMS paramedics
  
Emergency Medical Services - Toronto Emergency Medical Services today unveiled
six of the eighteen new Emergency Response Unit (ERU) vehicles dedicated to
improving paramedic response times in Toronto.

Emergency Response Units are staffed by a single, experienced paramedic and
supplement the regular paramedic transport fleet of approximately 90 ambulances
at peak staffing. The agility of the smaller ERU vehicles, combined with their
mobile deployment, will assist in improving response times.

"We are very pleased that the provincial government and the City of Toronto
have given us the go-ahead to expand our Emergency Response Unit program," said
Ron Kelusky, General Manager of Toronto EMS. "The new ERU vehicles, both the
Ford Crown Victoria models we are unveiling today, and the Chevy Tahoes that
will arrive in early 2003, will help our paramedics begin giving patients the
care they need sooner."

In August, Health and Long-Term Care Minister, the Honourable Tony Clement,
announced the Ontario Government's $32.5 million investment to increase the
numbers of paramedics and improve ambulance response times across Ontario.
Toronto EMS received one-time funding of $1.26 million to purchase eighteen new
vehicles and equip them with medical and communications equipment. Provincial
funding of $1.15 million annually, which was matched by the City of Toronto,
allowed Toronto EMS to hire an additional 30 paramedics to staff the expanded
ERU program.

"The Ernie Eves government is committed to working with paramedics to make the
emergency medical system work for you," said the Honourable Tony Clement,
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "This increased investment in putting
more paramedics on the road demonstrates our commitment to improving emergency
medical services for Toronto residents and will ensure we continue to meet the
changing health care needs of our population."

ERU paramedics will arrive first on the scene, assess and begin treating
patients until the transport ambulance arrives. Because ERUs do not typically
transport patients to hospital, they are not required to wait at emergency
departments to offload patients and can be reassigned to new calls sooner.
Currently, Toronto EMS operates five Jeep-style ERUs. When all the new vehicles
are in service, the ERU program will operate 18 ERUs during peak weekday hours
and 16 during peak weekend hours.

"The City of Toronto is proud to be part of this expansion of the Emergency
Response Unit program," added Toronto Councillor Olivia Chow, Chair of
Council's Community Services Committee. "It's important that the public is
aware that these new ERUs are out there on our streets and that motorists
remember to 'pull to the right' for all emergency vehicles."

Backgrounder

December 5, 2002

Toronto EMS's Emergency Response Unit expansion

Toronto EMS Emergency Response Unit program

· The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) program has been in place at Toronto EMS
since the early 1980s to improve paramedic ambulance response times and to
provide the highest level of pre-hospital emergency medical care to patients in
need.

· ERU vehicles are staffed by a single, experienced paramedic qualified to
assess and treat all patients. Currently, there are five ERUs in operation in
Toronto. ERUs supplement the regular paramedic transport fleet of approximately
90 ambulances at peak staffing. Transport ambulances are staffed by two
paramedics.

· ERU vehicles are smaller than transport paramedic ambulances, and except for
the stretcher, contain the same medical equipment. The agility of the Emergency
Response Unit vehicles combined with their mobile deployment enables them to
respond quickly to emergencies.

· ERU paramedics arrive first on the scene and can assess, triage and treat
patients and provide Toronto Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC)
emergency medical dispatchers with accurate updates of patient status and
incident severity. ERUs can then cancel transport ambulances or, if required,
transport minor ambulatory cases to hospital freeing transport ambulances for
other calls.

· The ERU program increases the speed of access to paramedic treatment for
patients and, because the ERU paramedics are not typically required to wait in
emergency departments to off-load patients, the ERUs are available quickly for
new assignments.

Toronto EMS Response Time Reduction Strategy proposal

· In a staff report to Toronto City Council dated August 24, 2001, Toronto EMS
sought Council's approval of its Response Time Reduction Strategy and its
proposal to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) for funding to
enhance the ERU program by purchasing 18 new vehicles and hiring 30 paramedics
in an effort to reduce response time. Toronto City Council gave the go-ahead
for this initiative.

· The Response Time Reduction Strategy is part of Toronto EMS' attempt to bring
the average response time down. Over the past five years, the response time has
gradually deteriorated due to a number of factors mostly related to the effects
of health care restructuring. Longer travel times combined with increased call
volumes and longer off-load waiting times in hospitals have impacted ambulance
availability and increased response times.

· Toronto EMS' proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care as part of the Province's effort to help emergency medical services cope
with hospital restructuring, and was developed as part of a process involving
the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Land Ambulance
Implementation Steering Committee.

Increased funding for Toronto's ERU Program

· Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Honourable Tony Clement, announced
$32.5 million in additional funding to increase the number of paramedics and
improve ambulance response times across Ontario on August 20, 2002.

· The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care informed Toronto EMS in late
September 2002 that its proposal was approved as part of the funding
announcement.

· Toronto EMS received 100 per cent provincial funding for these vehicles and
medical equipment, in the amount of $1.26 million, and 50 per cent provincial
funding for staffing and maintenance. This 50/50 funding ratio means $675,000
in provincial funding for the second half of 2002 and $1.15 million annually
beginning in fiscal 2003. The City of Toronto will match this 50 per cent
contribution as part of Toronto EMS' global staffing and maintenance budgets.

· Toronto EMS ordered 18 new ERU vehicles: six Ford Crown Victoria automobiles
and 12 Chevy Tahoe sport utility vehicles.

Expanded Emergency Response Unit coverage

· The expanded ERU program will staff 18 vehicles at peak weekday staffing and
16 vehicles at peak weekend staffing. The shift pattern will see these vehicles
operate from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m, 7 days per week. Thirty new paramedics were hired
for regular paramedic deployment to replace the 30 experienced paramedics who
will be reassigned to the ERU team.

· All modifications required to the new Crown Victoria vehicles, including
installation of a full range of medical equipment, lights, sirens, radios and
identifying decals are complete and the ERUs are ready for deployment as of
December 5, 2002.

· By early 2003, the ERU fleet will consist of 18 vehicles during peak weekday
periods and 16 vehicles during peak weekend periods.


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