‘Ensure CSL EMS continues’
By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
November 21, 2007

Côte St. Luc’s political representatives travelled to Quebec City last Thursday, to ensure new provincial legislation will allow the city’s 27-year-old volunteer Emergency Medical Services department to continue in perpetuity.

Montreal is enabling its firefighters to become first responders throughout the island. For Côte St. Luc, this would have meant firefighters answering Priority 1, extreme emergency, calls in Côte St. Luc instead of EMS. The changeover was to take place Jan, 1, 2009, and D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman announced last year that there would be a further extension to 2010.

However, the new Bill 22, which mostly concerns the agglomeration councils of various Quebec cities, also ensures EMS will operate to its full capacity under Côte St. Luc’s control. EMS gets to the scenes of local emergencies before Urgences Santé, and helps stabilize patients until they can be transported to hospital.

Côte St. Luc submitted a brief to the National Assembly, urging that Bill 22 be passed with the EMS provision intact.

“Without immediate legislative action, our EMS service would soon cease to exist as we know it, due to the collective agreement signed by the City of Montreal with the firefighters union in 2003,” the brief says. “If [the provision] is not adopted, the Montreal fire department will have the right to supplant EMS against the will of our council and residents.”

The Côte St. Luc representatives, which included Mayor Anthony Housefather and councillors Glenn Nashen and Dida Berku as well as EMS personnel, presented letters of support from directors of emergency medicine at the Jewish General, Montreal General and Royal Victoria hospitals; petitions from residents and editorials of support from newspapers.

“The council of Côte St. Luc has no more important job in this mandate than to protect EMS, which the city has spent approximately $20 million over the last 27 years to build,” the brief says.

The brief also laid out Côte St. Luc’s case for maintaining EMS.

• EMS personnel are better trained and will respond to more calls than the fire department, which has not started its first responder service yet. The brief adds that the fire department will provide an “invaluable” service to the rest of the island.

• EMS concentrates on first response, while the fire department also responds to fire calls. Those calls could make firefighters unavailable for local Priority 1 calls.

• Labour unrest and the movement of equipment from one fire station to another could undermine the firefighters’ first responder service.

• EMS has better response time — three minutes and 30 seconds compared to the fire department’s goal of eight minutes.

“We plead with the legislature to adopt [the EMS provision] and assure you the residents will always appreciate and remember the decision made by the legislature in this matter,” the brief concludes.

But the firefighters union claims Housefather is trying to “hoodwink” the government regarding response times and availability of firefighters.

“The mayor of Côte St. Luc should know that volunteers are not and will never be able to offer a service for first responders as good as that offered by the firefighters of Montreal,” said Montreal Firefighters Association president Michel Crevier.

Crevier added, in a prepared statement, that his association will provide Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Nathalie Normandeau with the “real portrait” of the firefighters’ response times.