Lohr: Short-staffing ambulances increases risk of opioid-related deaths

Chronic underfunding of health care and short-staffing of paramedic services by the Liberal government is leaving Nova Scotians at high risk of fatal overdose.


Progressive Conservative Addictions and Mental Health Critic John Lohr says he's concerned that Nova Scotia has already had 18 opioid-related deaths this year.


"By short-staffing ambulances we are leaving too many communities vulnerable,” says Lohr. “Should someone on Brier Island or Long Island have a medical emergency, they might not be able to wait an hour and a half for an ambulance to arrive.”


Paramedics have been stretched thin throughout the province due to high call volumes leaving many rural communities, such as in the Digby area, with wait times of up to 90 minutes for an ambulance.


Prehospital and Preventative Health Care critic Colton LeBlanc, a former paramedic, highlighted that paramedics are often able to intervene to reverse fatal opioid overdoses - if they arrive in time. According to the EHS, the use of naloxone and the work of emergency responders save the lives of 150 people who have overdosed, per year.


"Paramedics are highly trained to save lives," said LeBlanc. "But they can't save lives or reverse opioid overdoses if the prehospital emergency healthcare system isn't working efficiently for paramedics to do their job effectively."


High call volumes related to opioid overdoses are common in Nova Scotia. Often paramedics return to the same patients multiple times to treat their opioid overdose, which points to an underlying issue: a lack of addictions services.


“The Liberals shouldn’t wait until the province sees an increase in preventable deaths to act,” says Lohr. “The government needs to ensure that every community has access to ambulance services and that addiction treatment is properly resourced.”