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Tories blast NDP over 'Code Red' lack of ambulance availability

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The Selinger government is playing Russian roulette with the lives of Manitobans in need of emergency care, the opposition Tories charged today.

The Progressive Conservatives, citing information obtained through freedom of information legislation, said there were more than 100 hours in 2012 when ambulances were not available in the city of Winnipeg.

They said the problem, known as Code Red, is caused primarily by long waits by paramedics in dropping off patients at hospital emergency rooms. The waits are caused by patient bottlenecks within the hospitals themselves.

In 2012, accumulated wait times in Winnipeg rose to nearly 43,000 hours from 36,000 hours, the Tories said.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald has talked a good line on the issue, but failed to act, PC Leader Brian Pallister told a news conference.

In June, she told the legislature, "We want those off-load times to come down." On Nov. 22, she said: "We’re working on driving down that off-load delay time."

Pallister said it looks more like the government is getting complacent on the issue.

"The NDP system is failing. Code Red complacency is unacceptable," he said Friday, flanked by his health critic, Cameron Friesen.

On average paramedics are now waiting in parking lots for 74.6 minutes to off-load their patients and get back into service. The province has paid more than $1 million in fines to the City of Winnipeg because of the long waits.

Tories fear-mongering: Oswald

Oswald accused the Conservatives of fear-mongering. She said average waits for ambulances in Winnipeg – at seven minutes – are among the best, if not the best, in the country.

She said "99 per cent of the time" ambulances are ready to respond to a call, and if they’re not firefighters are.

"If you listen to what (the Tories) say and you’re a senior citizen, you can become very frightened," the minister told reporters in her office.

Oswald allowed that wait times to transfer patients from ambulances to hospitals have recently risen, but she said the government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority are putting in place measures that will bring those times down.

She also noted that Pallister refused to say how the Conservatives would improve the situation. She said if they want to offer solutions, "I’m all ears."

History

Updated on Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:50 PM CST: Adds comment from Minister Oswald.

2:00 PM: adds photos

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