Wednesday July 17, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday July 17, 2013

Ombudsman criticizes Ontario government for unfulfilled promises

Patients in Ontario are safer taking a taxi to the hospital than risking their lives in an unregulated “beater” transfer ambulance, says ombudsman André Marin.

“Our investigators have uncovered serious problems with maintenance, staff training, and infection control with these vehicles, which transport hundreds of thousands of Ontarians every year,” Marin said Tuesday.

In his 2012-13 annual report, the provincial watchdog urged the government to take charge of a number of issues, including regulating the non-emergency medical transfer industry before it is too late.

“This is a case where the where the wheels are literally falling off the bus. Some of these vehicles’ parts are flying off them, we have patients falling off gurneys. It’s a question of time before there is a major catastrophe and then we will look back and say, ‘Why did the government not act?’ ” he told a Queen’s Park news conference.

The ombudsman said the coroner has been calling for regulating the non-emergency medical transfer industry since 1995, but Health Minister Deb Matthews told the Star she is still working on it.

“You are safer to take a taxi from your home to the hospital than to take one of these vehicles that are often beaters — they are ambulances that are turned into beaters — and you hire them at greater cost just to ferry you. Just because the 19-year-old drivers have uniforms and they drive cars that look like ambulances you think that it is official and you are safe and you are not,” Marin said. (Source: The Toronto Star)