Ambulance times in some rural Manitoba locations could leave you waiting

In the event of an emergency on your operation, are you prepared 
for the 30- to 60-minute wait for help to arrive?

ambulance in a field

The distance between rural communities, weather, dated road information and deteriorating road conditions are all obstacles for Manitoba’s first responders trying to reach on-farm emergencies.

Adding pressure, EMS stations in Manitoba are mandated to meet a 30-minute response, from the time the emergency call comes in to the time the ambulance reaches the patient.

“There are processes in place to ensure an ambulance arrives as soon as possible,” Corene Debreuil, director of emergency services with Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors.

“If an ambulance in one community is addressing a case, the Manitoba Transportation Co-ordination Centre (MTCC) will reposition an ambulance from community A to a location between communities A and B when the community B ambulance is busy. This redeployment is called geo-posting and is done to ensure both communities have minimal response times.”

A response compliance report by EMS stations in rural Manitoba, compiled by the MTCC, shows 50 per cent of rural EMS stations in Manitoba aren’t reaching the mandate.

Seventeen of 34 stations in the southwestern region of Manitoba are not reaching the province’s 30-minute window, based on averages of data collected from each station from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.

“It is the responsibility of municipalities to provide this updated information to MTCC so paramedics have the most up-to-date information available,” said Debreuil. “In rural areas, it is always a good idea for residents to be familiar with their rural address and to have a rural address marker at the end of the lane or driveway. It’s also important to keep address markers visible by ensuring they are not overgrown or covered by snow.”

According to Manitoba Health, response times could be skewed during a slow month or high calls in one month and station statistics can become inflated when other stations are closed, increasing service areas.

chart of ambulance wait times
Community Averages: Numbers above are community averages of EMS response times. Data was acquired through a response compliance report by EMS stations in southwestern Manitoba, compiled by the MTCC. Data was collected from each station beginning April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. photo: File

“It’s very difficult to compare stations or regions, because every site has its own unique challenges. There are a number of factors that can affect response times, such as the distances in the area of coverage, staffing models and weather,” said Debreuil.

Currently, Manitoba Health is working to design a provincial model that will reduce ambulance wait times and increase the quality of care.

A large-scale review of the provincial EMS system recommended in March 2013 that 18 EMS stations be closed across Manitoba. Eleven of those stations are in southwestern Manitoba. The closures would allow for strategic placement of primary-care paramedic stations, which are staffed full time.

“Provincial data shows that systems with on-call paramedics can lead to longer response times, because the paramedics must first travel to the station and the ambulance before they are able to head to the scene of the emergency,” said Debreuil. “The province has been moving away from on-call systems to implementing full-time, primary-care positions.”

A pricey ride

Besides ensuring their property can be easily located, Manitoba producers may also want to carry insurance that covers ambulance transportation to avoid a costly bill following a medical emergency.

Fees for ambulance transportation vary between provinces and cities as they depend on subsidies from the province and municipalities. Statistics Canada says Manitoba has the highest ambulance fees in the country.

The Prairie Mountain Health Region has the highest flat rate in the country at $530. In addition to the flat fee, depending on the situation, fees can increase by kilometres travelled, non-residency and the need for advanced life support.

Prepare and save significant time

Safe Work Manitoba offers producers a number of resources that assist in developing a farm safety plan that may avoid having to call in emergency in the first place.

“There are a number of serious injuries that happen in Manitoba every year. Many times these on-farm injuries are incidents that happen very quickly and people aren’t prepared for the aftermath. Generally they are caused by something that could have been easily prevented,” said Jeff Shaw, farm and safety co-ordinator with the government of Manitoba.

Safe Work Manitoba safety worksheet
Safe Work Manitoba offers a number of online worksheets and checklist to assist in spotting on-farm hazards and safety issues. photo: Safe Work Manitoba

According to the Worker’s Compensation Board of Manitoba, the hog and poultry industries lead the way in on-farm injuries.

Incidents where producers are stuck or pinned by equipment are the most common, followed by entanglements, falls, run overs and rollovers.

“Most of the fatalities and injuries that we see are from self-employed farmers. Usually they were working alone and generally (they are) around the age of 55,” said Shaw. “In my past roles, I investigated these fatalities and many times they occur while doing things that we do on our farm each and every day.”

Shaw recommends visiting the Safe Manitoba website for a free copy of the organization’s seven-step safety and health emergency planning kit.

safety infographic
Safe Manitoba’s emergency planning kit has been designed to help prepare every farm for possible emergency situations and aid producers in assembling a written emergency action plan to assist family, employees, and EMS to respond to situations efficiently. photo: Safe Farms

“No matter what kind of operation you have, it is important to have a health and safety plan on the farm,” said Shaw. “There are so many free resources available to help you determine areas of your farm that may become an issue and tools that can assist in making your operation more accessible to EMS responders.”

Safe Manitoba’s emergency planning kit has been designed to help prepare every farm for possible emergency situations and aid producers in assembling a written emergency action plan to assist family, employees, and EMS to respond to situations efficiently.

The safety and health emergency planning kit is available on the SAFE Work Manitoba website.

About the author


Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.



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