Skip Navigation
EMS Childpage Banner

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I become a paramedic?

This link will bring you to the page on our website answering this very question.

2. What area does Superior North EMS cover?

The District of Thunder Bay.  ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Bay_District )

This includes the City of Thunder Bay, 14 municipalities, and unorganized areas.

3. How many paramedics are there in the District of Thunder Bay?

Superior North EMS (SNEMS) employs approximately 170 paramedics.  About 80 of those are in the City, while 90 are spread throughout the District.

4. How many ambulances are there?

Our fleet consists of 36 ambulances, six paramedic response units (PRUs), 1 emergency support unit (ESU), and other administrative vehicles.

In Thunder Bay, there are 13 ambulances, two PRUs, and one ESU.  The remainder of the vehicles are deployed throughout the District.

5. How many stations are there?

We have 19 stations:  5 in Thunder Bay, and 14 strategically located throughout the District.

6. How much does it cost for an ambulance?

Generally, patients are responsible for paying $45.00 of the cost while OHIP covers the remaining portion.  For more information, please visit www.health.gov.on.ca

7. Do paramedics use “lights and sirens” on every emergency call?

Of course, it is important for paramedics to respond to genuine emergencies quickly, therefore they may use “lights and sirens” to request the right of way from other drivers and get to the scene quickly.  Using lights and sirens increases risk however, to paramedics and other drivers.  Also, lights and sirens are often not necessary to quickly respond to emergencies in some circumstances.  So, you may see an ambulance responding to a call without using lights and sirens, as its use is at the paramedic’s discretion.  That’s why, if you’re waiting for an ambulance, and it arrives without “lights and sirens” activated, it does not mean that they were not responding quickly. 

Regardless, the first priority for paramedics is to respond to calls safely and quickly, while following the “rules of the road”, and respecting the responsibility that comes with authority to break those rules. 

8. Are paramedics permitted to break the “rules of the road” during emergencies?

Yes.

In a genuine emergency (threat to life and/or limb), paramedics may disregard the “rules of the road” (e.g. they may drive faster than posted speed limits).  But they must do so in a safe fashion at all times.  For example, at a red light, they must come to a complete stop and ensure that every other driver sees them before proceeding against that red light.  Paramedics are acutely aware of the inherent risk that comes from a rapid response, and are exceedingly careful when doing so.

9. How many accidents are there involving ambulances?

In emergency situations, ambulance accidents are rare.  At SNEMS, we have had a few over the past decade, but fortunately, none have involved serious injury or death.

In non-emergency situations, we have had accidents.  One has included serious injury, to one of our paramedics.  Indeed, vehicle accidents and working on roadways represent the most risk to personal safety.

SNEMS paramedics travel more than 600,000 kilometers per year.  Our drivers are professionals.

10. Why do firefighters and police officers respond to some medical calls?

Firefighters and police officers work in tandem at emergency scenes where people are injured or ill.  We do so under a “tiered response agreement”.  This ensures that those in distress receive help as quickly as possible.  Paramedics, firefighters, and police officers work as a team, but have different responsibilities.  Paramedics direct patient care, firefighters extricate, rescue, and provide scene safety, and police officers ensure safety and investigate crimes.  Firefighters and police often assist paramedics in providing patient care. 

11. Why are there fluctuating levels of on-duty paramedics?

SNEMS utilizes a “dynamic” staffing pattern.  Our deployment plan responds to varying levels of demand.  For example, demand typically begins to rise around 8 am, peaking around 2:30 pm, and then declines, until rising slightly in the late evening.  The early morning hours are quietest.  This is unlike an urban fire department, which has “static” deployment, meaning staffing levels are consistent at all times. 

12. What are those EMS SUVs for?

Those are our Paramedic Response Units (PRU),providing a rapid EMS response to emergency calls.  With one paramedic and the same equipment found in an ambulance, these vehicles are dispatched to emergency scenes.  They do not become “tied up” as ambulances often do, as they do not transport patients to the hospital.  If you call 911, you may find of these PRUs at your home.

PRUs are also in the District, in Marathon, Geraldton, and Nipigon.  As in Thudner Bay, these are staffed by superintendents who are paramedics.  In all cases, they may respond to 911 calls. 

13. Who dispatches paramedics?

Paramedics are dispatched by the Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC).  Although the CACC is a Provincial agency that is not a part of SNEMS, there is close collaboration between the two.  They are staffed by ambulance communication officers (ACOs).  For more information on the Thunder Bay CACC visit www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/ambul/ehs_mn.html

14. Who funds EMS?

In Ontario, the provision of EMS is a municipal responsibility. 

In the District of Thunder Bay, the Province pays 50% of the cost, while 14 municipalities pay the remaining 50% on a pro-rated (portion of total weighted assessment) basis.

There are other costs, for example, the cost of providing service to first nations and unorganized areas.  Under agreement, these are funded at 100% by the Province.
 
15. Are the paramedics unionized?

SNEMS’ paramedics are members of Unifor Local 229.  There are two bargaining units – one in Thunder Bay and one in the District.  For more information, please visit:  www.unifor229.com

16. Why does it sometimes take so long for an ambulance for transfers in-between health care facilities?

Non-emergency transfers, usually in between health facilities for patients requiring assessment or treatment, are the lowest priority for EMS ambulances.  Unfortunately, these calls sometimes wait while paramedics are busy responding to 911 emergencies.  Since the same paramedics respond to both types of calls, the emergencies take priority over non-emergencies, or routine calls.

17. Who operates the air ambulance / helicopter in northern Ontario?

In Ontario, there is a provincial air ambulance service – Ornge.  For more information, please visit: www.ornge.ca