Province boosts EMS across Alberta; Calgary to get 10 new ambulances, more paramedics

Calgary will get 10 new ambulances and 30 additional EMS staff as part of a plan aimed at providing improved access to emergency care, the province announced Friday.

As part of a five-point EMS action plan, Calgary will also get eight hospital emergency liaison officers across four emergency departments, a move intended to more quickly free up paramedics for other calls.

The province-wide strategy detailed by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is funded through a $29-million increase for EMS in the 2018-2019 budget.

“We know timely access can save lives,” Hoffman said at a news conference in Edmonton.

“Albertans want to know that when they or their loved ones are in need of care in the face of emergencies, that they won’t have to wait.”

Through the 2018 budget increase, EMS workers in Alberta will also have access to a full-time psychologist.

Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, called Friday “a great day for front lines of health care.”

“This has been a conversation ongoing for well over 10 years, and at some point, finally somebody sat down and listened to what was being said, because too many times in this province, our frontline health care system is stretched to the point where we can’t provide the care that’s needed for the citizens of this province,” Parker said.

He noted the government has also committed to additional funds in the next two years — a measure Parker said is needed to keep up with increasing call volumes.

“I’m going to call this a Band-Aid solution on a system that needs continued monitoring and continued influx of additional resources, because as our call volumes increase in this province, if we’re not matching call volumes with growth of services, then there’s always going to be a fall behind,” he said.

“This isn’t something that just one time fixes everything and it’s all better.”

The province also announced five new ambulances for Edmonton, one each for Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat and expanded EMS hours in Vilna, St. Paul, Westlock and Sylvan Lake.

In addition to the 30 new EMS staff in Calgary, Edmonton will see 28 new staff, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat will each see eight, and Sylvan Lake, Vilna and St. Paul will each see four new EMS staff. Edmonton will see an equal number of hospital emergency liaison officers as Calgary.

The government’s EMS plan also includes an expanded community paramedic program, which the province said allows paramedics to provide care to seniors and other vulnerable Albertans in their homes.

“These investments allow us to address some key priorities and improve access to care for Albertans,” Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said in a news release.

“This targeted spending provides additional support where we need it most both rurally and in our metro operations, and improves our ability to continue to respond to patients whenever and wherever they have an emergency.”

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan and Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann said their party recommended that paramedics be hired and placed in emergency rooms to facilitate patient transfers and suggested that the community paramedic program be expanded.

“We provided constructive solutions to AHS after spending months researching this problem and consulting with health practitioners and the community,” Swann said in a news release.

The total 2018-2019 budget for EMS is $524 million.

— With files from The Canadian Press 

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