Ontario Amends Ambulance Act Regulation to Address Staffing Concerns Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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On April 16, 2020, the provincial legislature passed Ontario Regulation 159/20 in an effort to address some of the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new regulation makes four (4) major amendments to the General Regulation under the Ambulance Act which relax hiring requirements for new emergency medical attendants and advanced care paramedics, as well as defer some of the certification requirements for existing emergency medical attendants and paramedics:

 

1. Relaxing the Required Qualifications to Hire Recent Emergency Medical Attendant Graduates

Ordinarily, an emergency medical attendant graduate is required to have obtained a pass standing in an advanced emergency medical care examination in order to be able provide patient care as an emergency medical attendant, either in a volunteer or paid capacity. However, due to COVID-19, emergency medical attendants who have successfully completed an ambulance and emergency care program or a paramedic program provided by a College of Applied Arts and Technology but who have not yet passed their advanced emergency medical care examination will be permitted to provide patient care as an emergency medical attendant on a full-time of part-time basis or as a full-time volunteer for up to 420 consecutive days from the date of completion of their program.

 

2. Relaxing the Required Qualifications to Hire Student Paramedics

As detailed above, an emergency medical attendant is typically required to have graduated from a relevant post-secondary program and to have passed an advanced emergency medical care examination in order to be able to provide patient care as an emergency medical attendant, either in a volunteer or paid capacity. However, due to COVID-19, students currently registered in a paramedic program of a College of Applied Arts and Technology or an institution approved by the Director will be permitted to provide patient care as an emergency medical attendant for the duration of the declared state of emergency in Ontario, and for an additional six (6) month period afterwards.

 

3. Relaxing the Required Qualifications to Hire Advanced Care Paramedic Graduates

Usually, an advanced care paramedic is required to have completed an advanced care paramedic training program and to have passed an advanced care paramedic examination in order to provide patient care as an advanced care paramedic, either in a volunteer or paid capacity. However, due to COVID-19, advanced care paramedics who have successfully completed their advanced care paramedic training program but who have not yet passed their advanced care paramedic examination will be permitted to provide patient care as an advanced care paramedic for the duration of the declared state of emergency in Ontario, and for an additional six (6) month period afterwards.

 

4. Deferring the Required Certifications for Emergency Medical Attendants and Paramedics

Under normal circumstances, emergency medical attendants and paramedics must re-certify in cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the Basic level or the Advanced Cardiac Life Support level twelve months after starting their employment, and every twelve months thereafter. However, due to COVID-19, emergency medical attendants and paramedics will not be required to do so for the duration of the declared state of emergency in Ontario, and for an additional three (3) month period afterwards.

Collectively, the amendments discussed above primarily serve to allow land ambulance service operators to temporarily increase their workforce in an effort to address any increased service demands resulting from the pandemic. Despite the relaxing of the usual qualifications for emergency medical attendants and advanced care paramedics, however, the Ontario government has sought to reassure the public by explaining that those hired under these provisions will be limited to providing services temporarily and only as appropriate to their competence level and scope of practice in order to ensure the ongoing safety of patients.

 

In Our View

Staffing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to pervade the healthcare sector, including for those operating the ambulances that transport some of the affected patients to hospital for treatment. The amendments made to the Ambulance Act are just another example of some of the extraordinary legislative measures the provincial government has taken in response to the ongoing pandemic that will hopefully alleviate these concerns for affected employers.

For further information or advice on your rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with COVID-19 and similar issues, please contact Sébastien Huard at 613-940-2744 and J.D. Sharp at 613-940-2739.