‘Ambulances can occasionally break down’ says Frontenac County

This ambulance broke down at the busy intersection of Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard and Bath Road on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, while transporting a patient to Kingston General Hospital. Photo by Cody Stafford-Arenburg/Kingstonist.

An ambulance that broke down last week while transporting a patient to Kingston General Hospital (KGH) might be a sign of a larger problem for Frontenac Paramedics.

After our partner platform, Make it Home Kingston #YGK, posted photos of the stranded emergency vehicle on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 during rush hour, multiple concerned paramedics contacted Kingstonist saying this was just another in a long, frustrating line of failures — due to what they called “systematic neglect” of their equipment and vehicles by Frontenac County. 

According to members of Frontenac Paramedics with personal knowledge of the incident, not only did the ambulance in question have a ball joint failure that caused it to break down, it had actually broken down with the same problem on a previous occasion within the previous two weeks and had been taken to a mechanic at that time. Both times there were patients being transported.

One paramedic said these problems have occurred as many as four times in the last year. 

Asked for comment, Matt Mills, Communications Officer for the County of Frontenac’s Corporate Services, answered on behalf of Frontenac’s Chief Paramedic Gale Chevalier.

“All Frontenac Paramedics ambulances and support vehicles are regularly maintained by qualified local technicians according to manufacturer specifications. We have contacted the manufacturer about this mechanical failure, and all our ambulances will undergo complete inspection,” the statement read.

“Like all vehicles, ambulances can occasionally break down. We keep spares ready in case. This time one patient was transferred to another ambulance, then to KGH within a few minutes.”

Reached for comment, Dave Doran, Vice President of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) Local 462, which represents Frontenac Paramedics, stated that the County had taken steps to rectify the situation in this past week.

“I spoke to my president before speaking with you… Management wasn’t very prompt in dealing with the situation, but they have since sent our ambulances to other garages to have them checked out. So we’re satisfied with the result [and] with what management has done now,” he said.

According to their website, Frontenac Paramedics have a fleet of 17 ambulances, which are 23′ long, 100″ high, and 112″ wide, and weigh 13,000 lbs. loaded. Twelve of them are in service at peak times, according to the County, and serve the Frontenac County area, including the City of Kingston, all three townships of the County, as well as the Township of Frontenac Islands (Wolfe Island, Howe Island, and Simcoe Island).

According to those with Frontenac Paramedics, there is a sense of optimism that the new direction of upper management will lead to less interruptions for ambulance operations — and the paramedics and patients that depend on them.

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