By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Two reports have been released by the Province outlying key issues with EMS services in Alberta, and recommendations to improve EMS services.
New provincial policies are in effect in hospitals across Alberta to reduce paramedic “idle” time and allow stable patients to be transferred from paramedics to urgent care teams and emergency rooms, to allow for EMS crews to move quickly and respond to a higher number of emergency calls and spend less waiting time in hospitals. Parliamentary secretary for EMS reforms and co-chair of the Alberta Emergency Medical Services Provincial Advisory Committee, RJ Sigurdson, said this can impact the mental health of EMS staff by creating “moral injuries” to paramedics unable to respond to other calls.
“Of the 1,400 (paramedics) we spoke to, they expressed a lot of frustration about the time they spend in the hospital when it comes to low-acuity patients (…) some of them even used terms like ‘being stuck’ there when these call are coming in, especially in their home communities. Initiatives like (those announced) today to be able to deal with IFT’s (Inter-Facility Transfers) is going to provide them greater turnaround to get back out to protect their communities,” said Sigurdson.
Emergency department staff will use new criteria to assess patients arriving in ambulances to determine whether they can safely wait with other stable patients. According to the Jan. 16 conference, “this change aims to provide an appropriate and similar response to all patients based on their condition, whether they arrive to the hospital by ambulances or on their own.”
In coming weeks, AHS will issue a request for proposals to contract services for non-emergency transfers between care facilities and hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary in order utilize more “appropriate” means of transportation for stable patients who meet the criteria.
The intent is to free up “ambulances and AHS paramedics from approximately 44,000 non-emergency transfers per year and will improve response times for urgent calls.”
Other areas of focus include better mental health supports and check ins for EMS staff. Minister Copping said although recruitment efforts are underway domestically, and internationally, retention is a concern as well. Citing work/life balance and the core-flex schedule as factors leading to burnout and sometimes staff leaving the profession altogether.
Copping said core-flex “just isn’t working when you have a higher call volume.” Both of Coaldale’s ambulances will have adopted a 12 hour shift schedule by month’s-end.
A pilot project is currently underway in Spruce Grove. The integrated department has been deemed successful, by involved parties.
The Town of Coaldale has been in talks with the Province, fire department, and AHS to take control of the ambulance service from AHS and run the service out of Coaldale’s fire hall. Minister Copping has indicated his verbal support of the initiative and will meet with Town officials in the coming weeks to determine how or if a direct delivery model can be implemented in Coaldale.
Copping had no announcements for how and when other recommendations, including other potential integrated approaches with municipalities will take place but is, “looking forward to working with our municipal partners,” in the future.