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Hospital wait times an ‘extreme’ cost to South Simcoe police

Deputy chief estimates officers have spent about 727 hours so far in 2023 offloading people at hospitals, but an estimated cost in wages was not available

Wait times for South Simcoe Police Service officers offloading people at nearby hospitals remains a strain on the department.

Deputy Chief Cheryl Sutton presented the average wait times for October in her monthly operational update to the police services board on Nov. 22, with wait times averaging 2.3 hours at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie and 1.8 hours at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.

Sutton also provided a more in-depth look at hospital offload times, based on data from last year, and the results showed that of the 469 total crisis calls the service attended in 2022, 88 resulted in officers taking people to RVH in Barrie, which had an average wait time of 153.88 minutes for officers to offload people; whereas 72 calls went to Southlake, which had an average wait time of 106.38 minutes.

Between January and October 2023, there were 103 calls sent to RVH with an average wait time of 141 minutes; 69 were sent to Southlake, with an average wait time of 104 minutes.

“All of these stats you need to times that by two because there’s two officers there, not just one officer,” Sutton clarified.

She said the total time spent at hospitals so far in 2023 was about 21,807 minutes multiplied by two officers, which means officers have spent about 727 hours waiting to offload people at hospitals.

“The cost for wait times for officers in hospitals is growing. It is extreme,” said board chair Chris Gariepy, adding that he spoke to various members of other boards at the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards (OAPSB) annual conference on Oct. 26 and 27, and “everyone is experiencing the same problem.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Gariepy suggested OAPSB should be leading the charge by gathering other boards as signatories on a letter expressing the issue to Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones.

Sutton hoped the data would help the board weigh the pros and cons of potentially paying for a dedicated nurse at the hospitals to assist police with offloading, an idea that came about in response to a suggestion from Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin at the last meeting.

Much like last month, Gariepy wanted to better quantify the cost to the police of having those officers tied up before taking other steps, but Chief John Van Dyke explained the cost to pay officers to do that varies depending on their rank, and as a result, an average pay would need to be used.

“Our records management system doesn’t know if it’s a first-class constable or a fourth-class constable,” he said.

The deputy chief said she and the chief would be meeting with staff at the County of Simcoe to discuss their plan for offload times, and Dollin suggested the police service could potentially “piggy back” onto the dedicated offload person the county is planning to have at each of its hospitals to help paramedics.

Bradford Mayor James Leduc worried the county paramedics would still be first in line, leading to continued delays for officers, and suggested hiring an offload nurse to help with the busiest times.

Gariepy requested the estimated wage data and information from the chief’s meeting with the county be reported back to the board at the December meeting, before making any decisions.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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