There is a countdown painted onto the side of ambulances in Stanstead to let the population know that in just a few days, workers will shift back to a pre-COVID schedule, which means delays in response times.
According to Jody Stone, Stanstead Ambulance General Manager, the station workers believe the changes in scheduling put in place during the pandemic benefit the public and should be maintained. While they all look the same, Stone explained that not all ambulance services are run the same way. In urban centres ambulances are parked in key sectors, ready any time of day or night to answer a call at a moment’s notice. In rural areas, like Stanstead, ambulance workers are on what’s called a 7-14 schedule. They work seven days out of 14, and on those seven days they are on call for 24 hrs. They wait at home and when a call comes in, the responders have to go to the station, which takes between 5-7 minutes, and then head out to the call.
When the pandemic was declared in mid-March and additional decontamination measures were put in place, the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) put Stanstead Ambulance workers on an hourly schedule. They currently work 12-hour shifts at the station or parked in town ready for calls immediately.