With word that the doctor shortage in Rainy River has been alleviated, the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board passed a resolution last Thursday to suspend payment by municipalities of a supplemental levy for extra ambulance coverage.
DSSAB CAO Dan McCormick said two factors played a part in the decision—Dr. David Singleton rescinding his resignation and the fact Rainy River has locum coverage scheduled until the end of August.
He noted the purpose of the levy was to pay for a change in staffing pattern for ambulance service, adding a full second car in Fort Frances to allow the staggering of vehicles.
So if the ambulance in Rainy River had to come in with an emergency patient, the ambulance in Emo would move over to cover Rainy River while one of the Fort Frances cars would move over to Emo for back-up coverage.
It then would reverse once the original Rainy River ambulance returned there.
The combined levy for municipalities and the unincorporated areas was about $293,000 for 2012, with each partner paying based on their apportionment.
While levy payments have been suspended, the supplemental levy had been collected for the first four months of 2012 and the DSSAB will be holding onto that in a special reserve fund, noted McCormick.
He said the concern is still that at any time if a locum doesn’t show up or Dr. Singleton changes his mind, the DSSAB has to be ready to implement the change in staffing pattern for ambulance service.
“For us, the change would take about a month,” McCormick said. “And then once it’s implemented, we have to maintain it for a minimum of a month.
“That’s why we looked at having four months, basically, of the levy in hand. So, we do have that four months on hand in a specified reserve.
“If something does happen, we can implement,” he reasoned. “We don’t have to go back to the municipalities to basically ask for the money.”
Looking at the long-term, the DSSAB could receive funding from the province for additional ambulance coverage.
But McCormick said “you have to do a lot of arguing with them to get the money, and technically they don’t have to pay you in the first year of implementation of any enhancement of service.”
McCormick added the DSSAB has told the Ministry of Health “this is their issue because it’s not an enhancement being caused by us wanting better service.”
“It’s an enhancement being caused by the Institutions Branch possibly shutting down an institution,” he argued.
“So we’re saying the cost-savings you’re going to have by shutting down the institution should, at minimal, cover the cost of up-staffing an ambulance, even in the first year,” he noted.
McCormick said the DSSAB will make a decision about the supplemental levy and reserve fund by the end of the year, and the enhanced ambulance coverage also will play a part in 2013 budget discussions.
“Our job, of course, is to protect the entire public, so we’re trying to keep the big picture in focus,” he stressed.
“The hospital could be there, it could not be there, but even now we’re seeing an enhanced number of transfers into the Fort or out of the district because they can’t keep the patients [in Rainy],” added McCormick.
“They only have three acute care beds there and with only one doctor around, just even keeping a patient that’s mildly got a problem, it’s difficult to maintain the contact.”