The Government of Alberta is working to address issues within the EMS system.

On Thursday (May 26), a conference was held at Fire Station 6 in Strathcona County. Government representatives, AHS members and frontline workers met to discuss a plan of action to provide some relief to the emergency medical system. 

All of the EMS advisory committee recommendations were approved. The recommendations focused on four main areas of improvement; increased staffing, improved coverage, fixing offload delays and better dispatch.

Increasing staffing

Providing a one-year exemption from current staffing requirements will allow emergency medical responders – a level of EMS practitioner – to staff more ambulances to transfer stable patients, in addition to working alongside other paramedics to respond to more types of calls. A ministerial order has been approved for this change.

Improving coverage and efficiency

Leveraging capabilities in integrated fire-EMS agencies through operational redesign:

  • Launch a pilot to deploy community response units as part of the contracted EMS services provided by Strathcona County Emergency Services. These units will stay within the county and can improve service capacity and response times to urgent calls that require advanced care.
  • Launch two pilots in Spruce Grove, including one to allow cross-trained firefighters-paramedics functioning as medical first responders to cancel inbound ambulances when not required.
  • Review types of automatic requests for EMS standby for fire calls to free ambulances when not needed.

Addressing offload delays

Forming an Emergency Department Offload Delay Task Force to bring together key health-care partners involved in all levels of the health system to reduce not only EMS offload delay but to improve patient access to emergency departments and other health services. 

This task force would also develop guidelines for the timely and safe transfer of EMS patients to emergency department waiting rooms.

Dispatch

Review alternative service delivery options for patients who do not need an ambulance and explore models used in other jurisdictions. This is to assess less urgent calls and respond with other safe alternative options like non-medical transport, primary care appointment access or other specialized services such as a community paramedic.

"We moved quickly to approve the recommendations of the EMS advisory committee to improve EMS service delivery given the current strains on the system," said Jason Copping, Alberta's minister of health.

More than 1,400 frontline practitioners provided input in surveys and town halls to implement these recommendations.