Fire chief snubs plan to cut nursing home response

The county is reducing responses to save money and free firefighters for more urgent calls

ORILLIA, Ontario — Despite a county plan to change emergency response protocol, a local fire department has said it will continue to respond to medical calls at long-term care homes. 

“We will continue to respond when we are requested to go,” Orillia Fire Chief Ralph Dominelli told

Orillia county’s committee recently proposed a plan to exclude calls from long-term care homes, maintaining that the change would free up firefighter’s time to answer more urgent calls. 

“It doesn’t make sense to deploy our firefighter when (these homes are) staffed with medical professionals … that can do a much broader (scope) of services,” Jane Sinclair, Orillia County’s general manager of health and emergency services, said. 

Current response agreement criteria under which a fire crew is dispatched to a medical includes profuse bleeding, chest pains, difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. 

The new response plan would only require paramedics to respond to calls at long-term care homes; however, Dominelli said the department will continue to take such calls. 

“For those things, if we are requested we will continue to go. That is part of an agreement that was signed and council has endorsed, so we have to follow that agreement,” Dominelli said. 

The fire department has strategically placed stations at either end of the city, an advantage that allows the department to be the first on scene. 

“The quicker you get to a patient, the (likelihood) of surviving is higher … One paramedic services arrive on scene, they take over the scene and whatever assistance they require from fire we provide it,” Dominelli said.

Director and chief of the county’s paramedic services, Andrew Robert, said the proposed change to tiered response would allow firefighters to be available for more calls. 

“If they’re tied up at a nursing home, they’re not available for that other call nearby,” Robert said. 

Should the changes be approved, county paramedics would install defibrillators in long-term care homes and provide training. 

The proposed change would also reduce costs for the city. 

Until then, Chief Dominelli said firefighters will continue to respond to calls at long-term care facilities. 

“The best service we can provide to the citizens of Orillia is what it’s all about,” Dominelli said. 

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