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A paramedic returns to their ambulance outside the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto on Jan. 5.GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

The City of Toronto is reporting average unplanned absence rates of more than 10 per cent across its divisions, including its emergency services, amid the surging Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg says the city’s emergency and essential services operated with an average unplanned absence rate of 12.8 per cent on Sunday.

Between Dec. 23 and Jan. 9, Chief Pegg says these services operated with an average unplanned absence rate of 11.9 per cent.

Chief Pegg says mitigation plans continue to be implemented to ensure that essential services are delivered across the city.

Over the weekend, Chief Pegg says there were times when more than 50 Toronto Paramedic Services ambulances were out of service, waiting to transfer their patients to the care of a hospital and return to responding to calls as required.

He says these “offload delays” are the most significant factor contributing to Toronto Paramedic Services’ ambulance availability.

Toronto Paramedic Services Chief Paul Raftis similarly says the city’s paramedics are seeing “lots of pressure across the system,” mainly owing to the time paramedics spend waiting to offload patients at overburdened hospitals.

Chief Raftis says the city’s paramedic service continues to mitigate its absence rates, noting that there were 114 ambulances on duty Monday, compared to 120 in a “best-case scenario.”

Meanwhile, Chief Pegg says the Toronto Fire Service is temporarily responding to a number of lower-priority paramedic calls, with firefighters responding to about 60 calls in a 24-hour period.

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