07/04/2015 12:13 EDT | Updated 07/04/2016 05:59 EDT

Ambulance wait times a sign of staff shortage, union says

The union representing Montreal-area paramedics says Urgences-Santé's staffing shortage has resulted in longer wait times.

Documents obtained by Radio-Canada indicate that, of 695 emergency calls studied, an ambulance was dispatched within three minutes of a call in 350 cases.

But in 128 cases, it took 10 minutes or more to find an ambulance to dispatch. It took more than 30 minutes in 24 cases, and more than an hour in nine.

This data represents emergency calls placed between June 22 and Dec. 31, 2014.

"It's difficult for us to do well when we're not enough, we're not enough on the road to help the population," said paramedics' union president Réjean Leclerc.

Meanwhile, Urgences-Santé said that in Montreal, on average, ambulances are dispatched within two minutes of a 911 call and arrive on average about eight minutes later.

Vincent Brouillard, an Urgences-Santé spokesman, said it's not simply a matter of staffing. He said cases that took longer than normal were initially deemed not life-threatening, and therefore a lower priority. The case was bumped up to a higher priority if a person called back to report a situation was deteriorating.

But Leclerc said priority shouldn't matter — if you call for an ambulance, you should get an ambulance.

"The way you have to approach the calls, its the worst case you have," he said.

Leclerc said he is planning to meet with Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette next week to discuss the lack of emergency resources.