Ambulance Service Contract Negotiations with the Province of Manitoba

The Province of Manitoba is responsible for protecting the health of Manitobans. To this end, the City of Winnipeg has been delivering ambulance services for years on a contract basis on behalf of the Manitoba government. Specifically, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) has been providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) service to Winnipeggers for over 20 years under contract to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA). The last contract expired in 2016, with a brief extension into 2017 and City staff have been diligently pursuing contract negotiations with the Province since 2015 with no success.  

Despite numerous attempts by City staff to engage in meaningful discussions and achieve progress in negotiations, provincial representatives have, to date, been unable to provide direction on their plans for the delivery of this vital service. As a result, and in order to move this critical matter forward, the City provided a draft contract to the Province in October of 2019 along with a detailed report of the service’s performance, volume increases and required resources. 

This is incredibly important because Winnipeg is a growing city with steady population growth. As a result, there has been a natural growth in demand for ambulance services. The City of Winnipeg is the province’s largest urban centre and is home to more than half of Manitoba’s population.  

Our EMS system continues to be extremely busy and in 2019, responded to over 90,000 calls for service. And in the midst of an illicit drug crisis and global COVID-19 pandemic, the result has been even more pressure on the system.

A number of consultants have examined the integrated EMS service delivery model over the years. Reports from George B. Cuff and Associates in 1997, Equinox Management Consultants in 1998, and TriData Corporation in 2000 helped in the development of the current service model.  More recently, the WFPS issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Standards of Cover/Community Risk Assessment and a Master Plan for the service. Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) assessed the WFPS EMS delivery from perspectives of operational and financial efficiency. Their final reports were received in 2019 and released publicly earlier this year, and confirm that the integrated model enables the most efficient use of existing resources.

Having a contract in place is incredibly important because it provides the parameters for service delivery including upcoming labour negotiations and ongoing capital purchase decisions. City staff eagerly await a response from the Province.  It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a contract in place that clearly sets out the level of service, if any, that the Province of Manitoba wants the City to deliver on their behalf. 

While we continue to move forward through a global pandemic that is causing uncertainty for the health of our citizens, it is well past the time for the Province to provide certainty with respect to ambulance services and finally deliver a path forward after years of indecision.