Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the city simply isn’t getting the direction it needs from the province of Manitoba on ambulance services — an issue that is “increasingly a problem for us going forward,” he told reporters late Friday.
Winnipeg operates ambulances in the city on behalf of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
But the contract between the two levels of government expired in 2016. It was extended in 2017, and the city offered a draft proposal to the Progressive Conservative government in 2019.
The last funding agreement saw the city and province share half the cost of emergency medical services that were not covered by ambulance fees.
The mayor, who was a lawyer in private practice before becoming a politician, says urging the province to sign a deal with the city would be good legal advice.
“Get a contract in place, for something as important as ambulance service. That message obviously hasn’t been acted upon by the provincial government, because it’s been five years without a contract. It’s been far too long,” Bowman said.
The mayor says the city needs clarity about what the province is planning, as there are equipment purchases and other capital expenses that need to be considered, along with collective bargaining with staff, in the near future.
He also says the province is also in arrears for payments due the city for providing the service.
Plans for the future of ambulance service in the city should be shared as soon as possible, Bowman told reporters.
“If those plans are privatization, in-sourcing at the province or breaking up the integrated model, they should be forthcoming and open about what those plans are,” Bowman said.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Cameron Friesen says negotiations are ongoing between Shared Health and the City of Winnipeg regarding the provision of ambulance service.
“Although these discussions have been impacted by COVID-19, our government remains committed to the negotiation process and to this vital health service we provide to the citizens of Winnipeg,” said the statement.
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