Donated ambulances finding new life in Cambridge Bay, Kugaaruk

A retired paramedic chief is working to help Nunavut communities provide good medical care

Two ambulances will be sent from Ontario to Cambridge Bay and Kugaaruk later this summer through donations by the York Region Paramedic Services and the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services, Ambulances4NU founder John Prno said on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Cambridge Bay)

By Madalyn Howitt

Retired paramedic chief John Prno has helped send decommissioned ambulances from southern Ontario to countries that need them around the world.

But then he learned about a need for ambulances closer to home.

Prno’s son, a mining consultant in Nunavut, told him stories about “seeing people moved in the middle of the wintertime in the back of pickup trucks and in the back of RCMP cruisers,” he said.

“We’ve got to be able to do something that’s more realistic and more humane than that.”

Prno has now shifted his focus to the North, where two refurbished ambulances from southern Ontario are on their way to communities in Nunavut later this summer.

A 2017 ambulance donated by York Region Paramedic Services is scheduled to arrive in Cambridge Bay by sealift in August, along with a 2015 ambulance from the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service that’s heading to Kugaaruk.

“It gives that ambulance a second life doing what it was made to do in a place that really needs it,” he said.

The vehicles heading to Nunavut this summer are the 11th and 12th ambulances Prno has helped send north over the past six years.

The ambulance heading to Cambridge Bay will replace the hamlet’s current medical transport vehicle that has been in service for close to 23 years.

“On behalf of [the] mayor, council and administration we cannot express our gratitude for this donation,” read a post on the Municipality of Cambridge Bay’s Facebook page late Monday night.

Both donations are co-ordinated by Prno, a former paramedic chief from Waterloo, Ont. He founded Ambulances4NU, which works with representatives from the Government of Nunavut’s Community and Government Services Department to get decommissioned ambulances sent to Nunavut.

Prno acts as a liaison between municipalities in southern Ontario that are retiring their ambulances and willing to donate them to remote communities.

“Each municipality has different rotation cycles for replacing their vehicles,” he said.

Ambulances in the south of Canada can often clock in 250,000 kilometres or more before they are replaced, however, the ambulances that are donated are still in good working condition, Prno explained.

“One day they’re a frontline vehicle doing 20 emergency calls a day and the next day they’re retired, so it’s not like we wear it out until there’s nothing left of it and then we give it to [Nunavut],” he said.

“You’ve got an ambulance that’s doing 50,000 kilometres a year in southern Ontario, and when it goes to Nunavut it might do 200 kilometres a year. There’s just not the road travel between communities.”

Prno said it’s a “great feeling” when he sees a specialized vehicle like an ambulance continue to be used in a region that needs the service.

“It doesn’t cost anybody anything. We can get [an ambulance] from here in southern Ontario, instead of it becoming a plumber’s truck or a French fry wagon somewhere,” he said.

“It’s actually doing ambulance work.”



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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Sani on

    I hope for you that you will have it work, here in Sanikiluaq we have one since almost four years now and never been use it’s municipality who are responsible of it and they said they have no driver for an ambulance another shit from GN and CGS.

    • Posted by Northern Inuit on

      It comes down to the preventative paintenance and care of the vehicles. The Ambulances are refurbished and sent up north at shipping cost only.

      Each Hamlet must ensure vehicles are cared for and qualified drivers are available. These require class 4 to be qualified so any Class 3 which water sewer have could drive these if required.

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