The Government of Alberta has announced changes aimed at reducing the pressures on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and paramedics. The changes include, increasing staffing, improving coverage and efficiency, and addressing offload delays.  

“Surgery volumes across Canada have gone from 100 per cent one month to 120 per cent or 130 per cent of normal volume a few months later. Emergency visits across the entire province dropped by a quarter in 2021 and were still low right through last year but it looks like a lot of patients are finally coming in on top of a late flu season and all the rest of it. The result is that call volumes and response times have spiked in recent months on top of the surge over the last year,” said Health Minister for the Government of Alberta Jason Copping. 

Alberta Health Services will be hiring 100 full time EMS positions and extending 70 temporary positions. Copping says the province has seen an increase of 230 staff over the past two years. There will also be a couple of changes to how staff will be used.  

“I am granting a one-year exemption to allow Emergency Medical Responders to staff more types of ambulances. EMR’s are one of three classes of EMS practitioners registered with the Alberta College of Paramedics. This staffing change will allow two emergency medical responders to transfer multiple patients without the need for a higher-level paramedic. That’s only in non-emergency transfers. This move will free up other paramedics to respond to more urgent calls. Also, when no other option is available an EMR can now join an advanced care or primary care paramedic they can respond to urgent calls,” said Copping. 

Copping has also approved a set of recommendations provided by the Alberta EMS Advisory Committee aimed at further reducing pressures. On that committee was Red Deer Emergency Services Deputy Chief, Chris Kearns.  During the conference, C opping noted that Committee was tasked to act quickly and come up with solutions that could be swiftly implemented. 

“This committee was tasked with bringing forward actions and longer-term solutions to ease EMS pressures by the end of May and then, a final report and recommendations will be tabled by the end July. Some of the short-term suggestions are things we can trial right away. These include solutions proposed by frontline workers to do things better and do them differently,” said Copping. 

Copping noted that some of those solutions may be subject to change depending on how effective they are in the field. He hopes the changes are able to free up resources and improve pressures on EMS.