Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Dean Ben­nett THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — ED­MON­TON

More than 30 new hires also in smaller cen­tres in $29-mil­lion ini­tia­tive

Al­berta is hir­ing more paramedics and de­ploy­ing more am­bu­lances in an at­tempt to im­prove front-line med­i­cal care. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the prov­ince is adding 58 first re­spon­ders in Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary to go with more than 30 new hires in smaller cen­tres.

She says there will also be 16 li­ai­son of­fi­cers for hospi­tals in Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary to help paramedics when they de­liver pa­tients.

The idea is to get paramedics back out on the streets faster.

Hoffman says the prov­ince is also ex­pand­ing home care that al­lows paramedics to treat vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and se­niors where they live rather than hav­ing them go to hospi­tals.

The changes are be­ing paid for by an ex­tra $29 mil­lion in­cluded in this year’s bud­get.

“We know timely ac­cess can save lives,” Hoffman told a news con­fer­ence Fri­day.

“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.”

There will be new am­bu­lances or ex­tended am­bu­lance hours in smaller cen­tres along with 15 new am­bu­lances in Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary, Hoffman said.

An ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion be­ing spent on mental-health care for first re­spon­ders will in­clude hir­ing a full-time psy­chol­o­gist.

“(This) will help paramedics work through the emo­tional stress in­volved in de­liv­er­ing front-line care.”

Mike Hen­nig, who rep­re­sents Ed­mon­ton paramedics through the Health Sci­ences As­so­ci­a­tion of Al­berta, said the ad­di­tional mental-health care funds are crit­i­cal.

“We know that we’ll be meet­ing the pub­lic in their hardest mo­ments and we don’t shy away from that,” said Hen­nig. “But putting on a brave face day to day takes its toll on us.

“It is my hope that in the not­too-dis­tant fu­ture I will stop get­ting calls about my col­leagues who have been forced to take time off work due to PTSD, or who have taken more ex­treme mea­sures to deal with the pres­sures they face on the job.”

There are about 3,000 EMS work­ers in Al­berta.

With the $29 mil­lion boost, the bud­get for emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices this year is $524 mil­lion.

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