Alberta’s committee report on EMS system is delayed. What changes do you want to see?

Alberta’s EMS system is under considerable stress, and has been for some time. Similar problems are being felt across the country.

And though various attempted fixes are being applied — like the $64 million allocated to EMS in this year’s provincial budget — the shortages are having real impacts now.

Alberta is awaiting a report from an EMS advisory committee that was originally announced in January, intended to address the growing demand for service. The report was due at the end of the July but now is expected to be delivered this fall.

The group’s initial recommendations, which included easing ambulance staffing requirements and reducing patient offload delays in emergency departments, were approved in May.

Jason Copping, Alberta’s minister of health, agreed to a request from the Alberta EMS advisory committee to extend its mandate to the end of August, said Alberta Health spokesperson Lisa Blahey.

“[The minister agreed] so they can continue working with EMS partners to finalize several new recommendations and follow up on implementation of the initial 10 recommendations announced in May,” said Blahey in an email.

While that report is pending, we want to hear about your experiences.

Do you have a story to share with us about your experiences seeking emergency care in Alberta? Fill out this form and one of our reporters may contact you:

Mike Parker, the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, said he learned the review had been deferred a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s going to take a long time to truly grasp the reality of what we’ve created here, how bad this system truly has become for those who expect to provide that kind of service,” Parker said.

“It’s going to take time, but it’s also going to take courage and leadership to change the system to take care of our people, so they can take care of all burdens.”

WATCH | Mike Parker speaks about an ambulance crisis in Alberta, a paramedic shortage and what he thinks can be done:

‘Our crews are exhausted,’ says president of Alberta’s paramedic union

5 days ago

Duration 5:51

President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta Mike Parker speaks with CBC Calgary News at 6 host Andrew Brown about ambulance response times, red alerts and his concern for the health-care system.

What’s to be done?

Parker said he thought the report needed to include safe staffing models, so no one works 16 or 17 hours in a day shift. 

“It needs to have an inclusion of how to get them off work because leaving them on the front lines well past their end of shift is not safe for anybody,” he said. 

“We need a recruiting strategy that brings our new people in, and ways to keep those that we have now. And these are all pieces that need to come out of this report.”

The review is pending as Calgary’s ambulance performance and response times continue to decline. The city had an average of 420 red alerts per month to start 2022, according to data obtained by the Opposition NDP through a freedom of information request.

In a statement sent to CBC News last week, AHS spokesperson James Wood said several factors have led to the increase in emergency calls, and all call types have increased.

EMS 911 call volume provincewide in 2022 to date is nearly 30 per cent higher than in 2018-19, he said.

“The EMS budget has been increased by $64 million, or 12 per cent, this year, and we’re using the increased budget to add staff as fast as possible,” Wood said.

“There are 250 more paramedics working today than two years ago, and AHS is constantly adding staff and increasing capacity. But like other provinces, we continue to be challenged by the increase in 911 calls and the impact of the pandemic on the workforce and the health system overall.”

The NDP has called for commitments to get paramedics off shift on time, plans to give paramedics full-time permanent contracts and an urgent expansion of harm reduction services.

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