READY TO ROLL

New am­bu­lances, more staff as Al­berta in­jects $29M into pro­vin­cial EMS bud­get

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - YOLANDE COLE — WITH FILES FROM THE CANA­DIAN PRESS [email protected]­media.com @yolan­decole

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 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 provincewide strat­egy de­tailed by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is funded through a $29-mil­lion in­crease for EMS in the 20182019 bud­get.

“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,” Hoffman said at a news con­fer­ence in Ed­mon­ton.

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 front-line health care sys­tem is stretched to the point where we can’t pro­vide the care that’s needed,” 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 ser­vice,” he said.

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 paramedics be hired and placed in emer­gency rooms to fa­cil­i­tate pa­tient trans­fers and sug­gested 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 2018-19 bud­get for EMS is $524 mil­lion.

JIM WELLS/POST­MEDIA

EMS units are stored in a south Cal­gary lot near the south­east neigh­bour­hood of Mid­na­pore on Fri­day. A bud­get boost is al­low­ing for more EMS staff and equip­ment.

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