“It was almost like it was set up to fail,” said Smith, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Private Ambulance Operators Association.
“It was set up to a certain ideology of what had occurred, of what’s supposed to have happened. It’s almost like the whole thing was set up for a certain outcome, because it’s certainly not an in-depth review.”
The review of the ambulance system was announced last May, and the $250,000 contract to complete the process was awarded to the Fitch-Helleur Partnership in November. A draft report of the review is expected to be presented to government in the coming weeks.
Smith, a paramedic who runs Smith’s Ambulance out of Whitbourne, said the roughly six months given to conduct the review was not long enough.
“That review, if done right, probably would’ve taken about two years,” he said, basing that timeframe on the information that operators were asked to provide when they met with Fitch-Helleur.
“We just went in for a sitdown, almost like a brainstorming session.”
The discussion was supposed to focus on what the operators felt was good in the industry, what was not so good and things they’d like to see changed. But Smith said the operators were “blindsided” and hit with a request to provide information on the number of runs they do, how many are routine, how many are emergency, response times for calls, types of calls and the types of employees they have. Not only that, Fitch-Helleur wanted that information for a three-year period and gave the operators two weeks to provide it.
"So really what we’ve got here is a study that is not detailed as we had expected it was going to be. It’s flawed to the point that the information contained in it is not a complete view of the current ambulance system in the province.” - Wade Smith
“There was no way it could be done in that length of time,” said Smith.
With 1,000 calls a year, Smith said he would have had to go through 3,000 documents to complete the request.
He said the association took its concerns to government and operators were told to provide whatever information they could.
“A lot of operators didn’t give any information because there just wasn’t enough time,” said Smith. “So really what we’ve got here is a study that is not detailed as we had expected it was going to be. It’s flawed to the point that the information contained in it is not a complete view of the current ambulance system in the province.”
Meanwhile, Smith is also upset about the impact the review is having on contract negotiations. On Monday, he said the association was originally told the review would not affect negotiations, but now has been told negotiations won’t happen until after the review is complete.
When the previous contract expired a year ago, Smith said the association could have signed a new one for a shorter term to accommodate the review. He also said the contract gives the minister of Health the right to recall the parties and make changes to the contract at any time, something that Smith said has happened in the past.