“The overall percentage of stretcher handling injuries (patient and equipment lifting) continues to trend up, and has increased by 14 per cent over the past six years,” Nicholls said.
That translates into $151,146 in lost time in 2013, and in the first five months of 2014, the total is already $89,907.
To address the issue, staff wants to spend $700,000 on power stretchers, which use battery-powered hydraulics to raise and lower patients, eliminating the need for paramedics to lift them.
Other paramedic services in Ontario already using the power stretchers have seen a dramatic drop in injuries, Nicholls said. For example, when York Region Paramedic Services began using power stretchers in 2013, it reported a 71 per cent reduction stretcher-related injuries. And the number of work hours lost to injury drop by half.
“These (statistics), coupled with the fact that our current manual stretchers have reached the end of their life cycle, presents an opportunity for the paramedic service to replace the current manual stretchers with new power stretcher and load systems,” Nicholls said.
While welcoming the plan, some councillors were unhappy that the request was coming now, rather than during budget talks.
“This isn't something that just came up,” said Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau. “It would be one thing if this was, in fact, an emergency. But this is nothing new ... We have to bring this forward at budget time.”
Nicholls said money had been set aside to replace the old stretchers, but the power stretchers are considered a new piece of equipment. In the end, the committee approved the purchase of 24, enough for the city's fleet of ambulances.
The contract will now go out to tender to the two Canadian firms that sell the stretchers – Stryker Medical and Ferno Canada. The province will pay half the total cost.