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Ottawa expected to pilot Taxi/EMS program, fall 2023

Niagara program saving Region $1,000 per trip

Ottawa is expected to begin piloting the use of Taxis in its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) this fall. A memo is being submitted to the October 19th  Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee by Pierre Poirier, Chief of Ottawa’s Paramedic Services outlining the pilot program.

“On November 1, 2023, the Ottawa Paramedic Service will begin piloting the use of local Taxis to transport select low acuity, or less urgent (CTAS 4) and non-urgent (CTAS 5), patients of the Smart Transportation Program and the Mental Wellbeing Response Team to alternate destinations, as appropriate,” Poirer’s memo read.

“In early 2022, Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS) launched a pilot project which dispatches taxis instead of ambulances following a 9-1-1 call for service from low acuity patients. While patients are still able to request an ambulance, they may also request a taxi. In July 2022, five months after the pilot became operational, Niagara EMS provided an update to the Niagara Region’s Public Health and Social Services 6 Committee noting the new service had resulted in a high level of client satisfaction and cost savings.”

The Niagara EMS pilot has proven quite successful and was the topic of a recent Canadian Taxi Association webinar organized for Taxi service providers interested in proposing the concept to their own local municipalities. Taxi services providers from cities including Montreal, Hamilton and Winnipeg attended the webinar.

In Ottawa, the most likely patient population to be held for significant amounts of time in hospital offload delay is lower acuity patients, Poirier’s memo notes. “This is also the most likely population to benefit from safe, alternate transportation via taxi. Taxi service will only be arranged after patients have been fully assessed by the Ottawa Paramedic Service and it is determined the individual does not require further treatment or transportation by a paramedic. All individuals transported safely by taxi will receive a follow-up call from a paramedic within 24 hours. This pilot aims to further mitigate the impacts of offload delay and reduce occurrences of level zero by decreasing the number of paramedic transports, which can increase the availability of paramedic resources in the community.”

The Niagara pilot, while generating business for Taxi drivers, is saving the Regional Municipality roughly $1,000 per trip.