With no government standards regarding non-emergency ambulance transports, hospital officials in southwestern Ontario are setting their own.
Last year, Andre Marin, Ontario’s ombudsman, recommended the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care start regulating the industry after some serious complaints came in, according to the Owen Sound Sun Times.
The newspaper continued, quoting Marin’s report: “Our investigation uncovered serious issues, from a lack of infection control to unsafe vehicles and poorly trained staff. These vehicles look like ambulances and are often transporting vulnerable patients. People need to know they can trust these services. That’s why I recommended regulation in my preliminary findings.”
Since that didn't happen, hospitals established a committee about 18 months ago to set their own standards.
There are a variety of EMS and private companies that transport patients from hospital to hospital, or from hospitals to nursing homes or to the patient’s home upon discharge.
“It’s not a well understood industry,” Ann Toman, manager of patient access at London Health Sciences Centre and leader of the project committee, told the paper.
“It was seen to be a gap and we know that it’s really important that our patients, who are our responsibility, are safe,” Toman said. “And so we set out to do it ourselves in the absence of regulation.”
EMS has been gradually shifting away from non-emergency work in recent years, “so hospitals are having to look to another means to do this,” Toman said. “It’s very dependent on whether or not and how much EMS has withdrawn their service, or how many delays are being experienced by the hospitals to get patients to another site.”