DARTMOUTH: An Emergency Health Services (EHS) representative said the recent flood of illness has led to some busy days.

On February 15, Progressive Conservative MLAs Eddie Orrell, Alfie MacLeod and Keith Bain called on the Liberal government to address what they see as an issue surrounding ambulance coverage.

The MLAs stated there were no ambulances available for use on Cape Breton and EHS had to pull one from Antigonish to cover service.

“What would have happened if we had a serious accident in [the Cape Breton Regional Municipality] that required more than one ambulance,” asked Orrell, the MLA for Northside-Westmount. “We know that in a life-threatening situation, every second counts. There are no available beds at hospitals, which causes ambulances to spend more time waiting at the emergency room because patients can’t be admitted. They are putting Nova Scotians at risk and it is unacceptable.”

Bain says the McNeil Liberals’ refusal to acknowledge there’s a crisis is shameful while MacLeod stated the situation is going to get worse if the Liberals do not take action.

When asked about the accuracy of the PC’s claim of the events of February 12, EHS operations director Jeff Fraser described the claim as “not overly accurate.”

“Our system is designed to expand and contract, so we have a deployment plan,” said Fraser. “It is not uncommon and has not been uncommon in the past… that there are times in certain areas in the province we do drop to zero [available ambulances in certain zones]. We manage our deployment plan live and we make adjustments on the fly.”

As an example, Fraser said there could be 50 ambulances and a demand for 51 “and that happens,” adding EHS adjusts the system to meet the anticipated or actual demand.

“To go back to answer your question clearly, we could have dropped… I don’t think we dropped for the entire island, certainly a pocket of the island,” said Fraser. “Our deployment plan doesn’t have boundaries or borders so if Antigonish [ambulances] got moved up towards the Causeway, that’s typical. That’s how our system has been constructed and how it’s built.”

Fraser said there has been a one per cent increase in call volume over the last six weeks. While that isn’t a large percentage, Fraser said some days are “brutal.”

“We had a day we hit well over 700 responses, which is unprecedented in our system,” he said. “The frequency of dropping is certainly happening more, I can’t dispute that. The frequency over the last few weeks, because there has been an influx of sick people, we’re certainly seeing more of it but it’s not uncommon to happen in our system out of any operational area across the province on any day.”