01/04/2013 06:18 EST | Updated 03/06/2013 05:12 EST

Ottawa paramedics stop responding to calls from Quebec

Ottawa paramedics say they have ended their practice of responding to calls across the border in Quebec, citing insurance issues.

Anthony DiMonte, chief of Ottawa Paramedic Services, said that as of midnight Jan. 1, Ottawa paramedics were not responding to calls from Quebec dispatchers. He added that Quebec officials have told Ottawa paramedics they would not be calling Ottawa for assistance.

In years past, Gatineau would call Ottawa about a dozen times a year, but in 2009 they called 55 times, and in 2011 they called 99 times.

Though Ottawa was recovering about $1,000 from the Quebec government each time a call was made, provincial and municipal officials felt they needed to set a limit. Last year, paramedics set a cap on the number of times they would come to the aid of their Gatineau counterparts at 50 times a year.

DiMonte said there were also outstanding insurance issues that have yet to be resolved.

"Essentially we've been waiting since 2011 and it's been quite clear we need agreements that clear the service and the city from any indemnity and insurance issue that may happen," he said.

"We've been asking the agence de santé for Gatineau to have the appropriate insurance should something happen on the Quebec side. And that has not happened."

DiMonte had said Ottawa paramedics would make an exception to the limit if there was a plane crash or other catastrophe, just as they believe paramedics from Gatineau would cross to Ottawa to help them.

And he wouldn't rule out the possibility that Ottawa paramedics could be available, should the insurance issues be resolved.

The agence de santé de l'Outaouais confirmed the impasse and said they hope their local ambulances will be sufficient.

Gatineau's health board had previously said a growing population in West Quebec has led to overcrowding hospital emergency wards, where processing time often keeps paramedics sidelined for about an hour.