Alberta NDP health critic David Shepherd says ambulances in Edmonton-area communities are spending more time in the capital city than their home base.
According to Alberta Health Services data acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIP) request, there were 13 “Red Alerts” in Edmonton, totaling about 20 minutes in May 2019. In May 2022, there were 859 “Red Alerts”, totaling 24 hours and 42 minutes.
Red Alerts refer to no ambulances being available to respond around the area; when an area is under Red Alert, AHS can respond by using ambulances in nearby communities.
“We know that this has ripple effects outside of the City of Edmonton, and for the first time, paramedics in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St Albert, Fort Saskatchewan and Sherwood Park have spent more time responding to calls in Edmonton than in their own communities,” Shepherd said.
The Alberta government unveiled a 10-point plan to address long wait times and paramedic burnout earlier this year. Steps include increasing staffing, improving coverage and efficiency, managing offloading delays and streamlining dispatching; however, Shepherd believes the province could do more to address the crisis.
“The government needs to commit to getting EMS crews off shift, on time. The additional hours that paramedics spend stuck at overwhelmed hospitals is one of the main drivers of burnout and turnover in EMS,” he continued.
“Second, the government needs to offer every paramedic a full-time permanent contract instead of the 89-day temporary contracts that make up about 40 per of the EMS workforce today.”
Additionally, Shepherd would like to see the government expand harm reduction services to reduce the burden the opioid crisis has put on paramedics and emergency room workers.
With Budget 2022, EMS has a total operating budget of $587 million, an increase of about $64 million over last year.