Prairie Post (West Edition)

EMS receives funding for 100 paramedic positions


New funding to help stabilize staffing as high EMS call volume continues

Alberta Health Services (AHS) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has received budget approval for temporary funding to help stabilize EMS staffing over the coming months, as part of a plan to manage continued high EMS call volumes.

“This funding will help stabilize EMS staffing levels and ensure that we are able to respond to Albertans and also take care of our staff,” says Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS President and CEO. “Our paramedics play an important role in health care, and this investment provides stability of funding so they can continue to provide high quality patient care to Albertans who need it.”

In total, 100 positions will be funded by AHS at a cost of approximat­ely $8.3 million.

EMS will transition 70 casual positions to temporary full-time positions. EMS has also received additional funding to continue with approximat­ely 30 full time positions in Calgary and Edmonton that had been hired temporaril­y in 2019.

“This will allow EMS to hire new casual staff and to return to using our casual positions for their intended purpose, such as providing short term and temporary relief for paramedics who are off on sick time or taking vacation time,” explains Darren Sandbeck, Chief Paramedic and Senior Provincial Director, AHS EMS.

A Workforce Planning Task Force, including representa­tives from all Zones, has been establishe­d to ensure the filling of all positions is completed as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Positions are already being posted.

EMS has been seeing an increase in 911 medical calls over the last several months, due to several combined factors including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in wildfire smoke-related calls, heatrelate­d events, and emergency calls as Albertans have been returning to pre-pandemic-levels of activity. All call types have increased.

“We need to do our best to support our paramedics and all healthcare workers now as we continue to see high demand on our healthcare services, and this decision by AHS should provide some tangible short term relief as we work on longer term solutions,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro says.

Provincial­ly, prior to the pandemic, EMS averaged about 1,095 911 calls per day. Currently, EMS call volume is averaging 1,521 calls/day.

“This funding helps us keep paramedic numbers stable so we can continue to respond to emergencie­s. We also continue to work with our Emergency Department partners and the Government of Alberta on new strategies to shorten the time it takes to transfer care from an ambulance to the appropriat­e hospital department so that paramedics can return to service sooner,” Sandbeck says.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsibl­e for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainabl­e for all Albertans.

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