The province says they're taking steps to address pressure on emergency medical services. 

In response to the increase in EMS service across Alberta, the province is launching an emergency medical services advisory committee to provide immediate and long-term recommendations to form a new provincial EMS plan. 

According to the province, EMS has seen a 30 per cent increase in 911 calls over the last few months. In addition to the rise in calls, the EMS system has faced staff fatigue and illness, hospital offload delays, more requests for patient transfers, delays in receiving new ambulances, and specialized vehicle parts caused by global supply issues.

The committee will comprise contracted ambulance operators, unions representing paramedics, municipal representatives and Indigenous community representatives who will identify concerns and provide and inform the new plan. 

“Through this committee, we’re committed to working together to develop innovative solutions to fix the delivery of EMS, address challenges facing our paramedics and ensure a world-class EMS system for all Albertans, now and into the future,” said Dusty Myshrall, president of the Alberta Paramedics Association. 

Alberta Health Services says they have a 10-point-plan to address the current strain on EMS services and ensure the most critical patients receive immediate care while maximizing existing system capacity. 

Five of the 10 actions are already underway, including: 

  • Hiring more paramedics. 
  • Launching pilot projects to manage non-emergency inter-facility transfers. 
  • Initiating an ‘hours of work’ project to help ease staff fatigue. 
  • Transferring low priority calls to other agencies in consultation with EMS physicians. 
  • Stopping the automatic dispatch of ambulances to motor vehicle collisions that don’t have injuries. 

Five additional actions are to come, which include: 

  • Creating a new integrated operations centre in Calgary, bringing paramedic leads and hospital staff together to improve integration, movement of resources and flow of patients. 
  • Evaluation by an emergency communications officer to determine if an ambulance from out of the area, though it may be closest to a 911 call, is most appropriate to respond. 
  • Implementing a pilot project in Red Deer that will manage most patient transfers between facilities with dedicated transfer units, freeing up ambulances to handle emergency calls. 
  • Allowing ambulances to be pre-empted from assignments instead of being automatically dispatched when a 911 call is received ensures more ambulances are available for critical patients. 
  • Developing a strategic provincial service plan for EMS delivery in the province. 

In addition, the province will look into conducting a third-party review of Alberta’s EMS dispatch system in February.